(Reuters Health) – A mother’s depression is linked with her children’s development from infancy through adolescence, according to a new study.

FILE PHOTO: A mother holds her daughter’s hand while they stand barefoot on a beach as rain clouds are seen over them in Colombo May 4 ,2014. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Researchers studied 875 middle- or lower-class mothers in Chile and their healthy children over a 16-year period, evaluating participants roughly every four years.

At any point during the study, about half of the mothers had symptoms of depression, and one-third were severely depressed, according to Patricia East of the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and her colleagues.

At age five, children with severely depressed mothers had an average verbal IQ score of 7.3 (on a scale of 1 to 19), compared to a higher score of 7.8 in children without depressed mothers.

The discrepancy “might not seem like a big difference, but it is truly significant and important and highly meaningful for children’s learning skills,” East told Reuters Health by phone.

These children will have a smaller vocabulary and poorer comprehension skills, East said.

The study team also found that depressed moms didn’t interact as well with their children, East noted.

Researchers had observed the mothers’ emotional and verbal communication with their children during spontaneous interactions in the home. They observed how often mothers praised their children, read to them, conveyed positive feelings and hugged their child, among other things.

Highly depressed moms were less responsive, affectionate, loving and warm. They…

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Mayra Rodriguez

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