Parents Depression May Influence Children’s Safety Practices

A new study links parental depression to increased safety risks for their children.

Taryn Morrisey, an assistant professor at American University, used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort to examine associations between measures of parents’ depressive symptoms and their parenting practices related to gun, fire, and auto safety.

The Early Childhood survey provides data on a nationally representative sample of children from birth to age five.

The results suggest that mothers with moderate or severe depressive symptoms were two percentage points less likely to report that their child always sat in the back seat of the car and three percentage points less likely to have at least one working smoke detector in the home.

Overall, one in five households with young children owned at least one firearm, and only in about two-thirds of these homes were all guns kept locked at all times.

Researchers found that when both parents exhibited depressive symptoms, children were two to six percentage points more likely to live in households that owned one or more guns.

Morrissey said her interest in a possible link between depressive parents and at-risk children was prompted by recent mass shootings, as well as the incidence of firearm-related injuries and deaths among children.

Morrissey hopes her study will prompt physicians to screen for depression among their patients, and to talk to their young patients’ parents about safeguarding their children.

This includes parental responsibility for car safety, smoke detectors, and the potential risk and safe storage of firearms.

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that the absence of guns from children’s homes is the most reliable and effective measure to prevent firearm-related injuries in children and adolescents.

Source: American University
Young child playing with gun photo by shutterstock.