Toddlers with depressed mothers are more likely than other kids to develop behavior problems as they get older. Behavioral issues, such as being overly aggressive, hyperactive, or withdrawn, can be reduced if the child spends a few hours a day in daycare, study shows.
The new study followed 438 Australian mothers and their children from infancy until the kids were 5 years old. As little as half a day of childcare a week appears to significantly reduce the risk of toddlers exhibiting behavioral problems at age 5. When mothers had reoccurring symptoms of depression, their toddlers were twice as likely to act out and four times as likely to be sad or depressed themselves.
According to a study covered in this article from Today Parenting, author Lynne Giles, Ph.D. at the School of Population Health and Clinical Practice at the University of Adelaide in South Australia, there are several ways in which childcare may buffer some of the effects of maternal depression on child behavior.
“First, some respite from the maternal role for mothers with depression may help the mothers fulfill their parenting role when they are with their toddler,” said Giles. “Second, toddlerhood is a time when social interactions are very important developmentally. So day care may also help to fill a socialization role of depressed mothers.”
Other psychiatry experts say this premise makes sense.
“A mom needs a break- it’s good for everyone’s health,” said Dr. C Neill Epperson, professor and vice chair of Department of Psychiatry at Emory University.
Dr. Margaret Stuber, professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles believes depression can hobble a mom’s ability to give a toddler what she needs to develop into a healthy preschooler.
“Toddlers need someone who is able to respond to their emotional outbursts,” said Stuber. “Someone who can help them understand their feelings and how to regulate them.”
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