Children who blame themselves for their mothers’ melancholia are likely to suffer depression and anxiety, reveals a study conducted by Southern Methodist University (SMU), USA and published in the Journal of Family Psychology (March). The study which surveyed 129 mothers and their 13-year-olds found that although children of mothers with high levels of depressive symptoms are at increased risk of experiencing anxiety, children who blame themselves for their mothers’ melancholia display higher levels of depressive symptoms.
“If children blame themselves for their mothers’ depressive symptoms, they are more likely to brood about their mothers’ symptoms. And we know from an extensive body of research that rumination over stressors, especially ones that are uncontrollable, is linked with depression and anxiety. Also, if children feel personally responsible for their mothers’ symptoms, they may try to ‘make it better’ and use ineffective coping strategies. This could lead to a sense of helplessness, failure, and low self-worth in the child, since ultimately the child is misattributing the cause of their mothers’ depressive symptoms,” says lead author Dr. Chrystyna Kouros, associate professor of psychology at SMU.