As if dealing with depression weren’t enough, when you are a mom you also have to deal with the guilt of possibly passing depression and anxiety along to your kids. Research shows that depressed moms are more likely to have children with depression and anxiety issues.
A new Canadian study reveals that children of depressed mothers are less likely to develop emotional issues if they spend some time in daycare. The researchers followed 1,800 children born to mothers in Quebec in 1997-1998 through their fifth birthday. During that time, the women regularly reported about their depression symptoms, any emotional problems their child was experiencing, and the type of childcare they used.
About 19 percent of mothers had depression symptoms during the study period. And as previous research has suggested, their children were almost twice as likely to develop emotional problems and separation anxiety before age five.
However, being in childcare seemed to mitigate that effect. The association was particularly strong for group-based childcare, as opposed to care provided by a relative or babysitter.
Among children with depressed mothers, attending daycare was tied to a 79 percent reduced risk of developing emotional problems, compared to kids who stayed home with their moms.
They found that how many hours a kid spent in daycare a week didn’t matter as much as the type of care they were getting. Children benefited more from being in a structured setting around a group of other kids than just being watched by a babysitter or relative. Makes sense. I just recently started bringing my child to a structured playgroup with other kids his age and it is pure glee the entire time we are there. He loves being around other kids – and I love watching him love being around other kids.
We recently made a big move out of New York. One of the driving motivations for the move was the fact that we couldn’t afford daycare there. We are in the process of trying to find one that is a good fit now. I can tell that the stress of the move and my own unhappiness with being somewhere where I have no friends has gotten to him. This study makes complete sense to me. Is it better for my child to be around a stressed out mom 24/7, or get a break to be around kids his age? Seems like a no-brainer. Not to mention the fact that I could use a little break, too.
Catherine Ayoub, who has studied Early Head Start programs at Harvard Medical School in Boston says, “Yes, you may be depressed, but you also can really move toward resilience. It’s okay to find the best possible care for your child that’s also a way to take care of yourself.”
Amen. Now if only all families had the resources to afford it. Then we would really be getting somewhere.