All of us, in some way, are the result of the environment in which we live and suffer great influence from those around us in the first years of life. These early years are crucial, as this is when we start learning a language, learning to be part of society and its rules and overcoming challenges, in addition to other aspects of life. And it was about this phase of development which is heavily influenced that a Canadian study published last August in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics sought to study. 

The researchers focused mainly on maternal mental health. For this reason, they gathered children up to five years of age in which mothers suffered postpartum depression to analyze the consequences that this illness could have on the development of the little ones when they went to school.

Children are very vulnerable in this preschool stage, so the researchers measured how fragile the children were through a large questionnaire that evaluates five aspects: physical health and well-being; social skills; emotional maturity; language and cognitive progress; and the capacity for communication and general understanding.

After having the results and analysis, the researchers concluded that children who experienced maternal depression before the age of five were 17% more predisposed to being vulnerable in at least one aspect of child development compared to children who had no contact with maternal depression. 

Difficulties with emotions

According to the article, the biggest consequence tends to be the difficulty in socializing, in addition to having responsibility and respect for the other, it tends to be unwilling to discover new things, resistance is created. Another point they discovered is how the child is emotional and hyper-sensitive, who may have difficulty dealing with and balancing emotions, such as lack of helpful posture or behaving anxiously and fearfully. They also found children to be hyperactive and have a lack of attention, in addition to, also, have problems with physical health and well-being.

As for language development and cognition, they do not appear to be affected by the mother’s depression, and previous research confirms this. In fact, the difficulty in developing children’s cognition is usually associated with experiences not only of maternal rejection but situations they can experience at home, and in society.

At the end of the study, the researchers report at what age children tend to suffer more from maternal depression. They observed that children up to one-year-old and between four and five years old, who had more contact with this condition, have great fragility, especially when they join the school, because, in addition to all the changes, distance from parents and their home, the child will have to socialize with other children. 

Research on the subject continues; however, we need to pay attention to what are the mechanisms that in this situation generate risk for the little ones, to the point of hindering their development in social and emotional areas. We need to pay attention to our environment and the behavior of those who take care of our little ones. Be parents or, be professionals specialized in education and care. 

We also need to teach our children about resilience and overcoming challenges, not only so that they do not develop depression, but so that this ripple effect does not occur in their lives. Letting external factors destabilize them.

And, above all, we must be aware of the importance of a support network for the new mother and care for their emotional health during pregnancy, and the understanding and support of everyone around them. Because neither pregnancy nor the puerperium is easy to deal with, as if that were not enough, mothers always suffer the weight of millions of expectations at a time when they are fragile, overburdened and the one that most needs help.