A new study shows that children of women who didn’t graduate from high school have double the risk of experiencing major depression in early adulthood, compared to children of mothers who graduated.
“Our research indicates that a mother’s lack of high school education has a robust impact on her child’s risk of major depressive episode in early adulthood,” said senior author Amélie Quesnel-Vallée, Ph.D., of McGill University.
The higher risk of depression in children of mothers with less than a high school education could not be attributed to parental history of depression, early life adversity, or the children’s own education and income in early adulthood.
The study is the first in Canada to distinguish the impact of a mother and father’s education on depression in early adulthood.
For the study, researchers looked at a sample of 1,267 individuals from Statistics Canada’s National Population Health Survey.
Participants were first interviewed in 1994, when they were between 12 and 24 years old, and living with their parents. They were then followed for 12 years, and their risk of major depressive episode was assessed between the ages of 22 and 36.
“Depression in early adulthood strikes at a critical time,” said Quesnel-Vallée.
“An individual may be pursuing studies or apprenticeships, or starting a career or a family. A disruption caused by depression can potentially derail these events and have lifelong consequences.”
Interestingly, the father’s level of education has no impact.
“This, along with the fact that the effect of mother’s education was not explained by the children’s own education or income, suggests that mothers’ parenting skills may be at play here,” she said.
Alison Park, a researcher at the Institut National de Santé Publique du Québec who worked on the research for her master’s degree, said, “Education gives people practical skills, such as communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, as well as an increased sense of mastery.”
“A better-educated mother might be more confident in coping with difficulties arising from child-rearing. This increased confidence and feeling of self-mastery might serve as a model for her children.”
The research is published in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.
Source: McGill University