Associations between postnatal maternal depression and psychological outcomes in adolescent offspring: a systematic review

Arch Womens Ment Health. 2015 Apr;18(2):147-162. doi: 10.1007/s00737-014-0463-2. Epub 2014 Oct 2.


Postnatal depression (PND) affects approximately 10-20 % of new mothers in developed countries, with accumulating research documenting its adverse impact on not only the mother but also the wider family. Longitudinal studies assessing potential effects of maternal PND on offspring are mounting, and it is therefore timely to investigate the long-term psychological outcomes for adolescent offspring who were exposed to PND in infancy. PsycINFO, Medline, and Embase databases were searched with key terms for English language abstracts. Papers of 16 were identified that examined associations between PND and internalising problems, externalising problems, psychopathology, psychosocial, and cognitive outcomes of adolescent offspring. Impaired offspring cognitive outcomes reflected some of the most consistent findings. Conflicting evidence was found for an effect of PND on adolescent offspring internalising and externalising problems and overall psychopathology. Psychosocial outcomes in offspring adolescents indicated a specific adverse effect, although based on only two studies. Significant gender differences across outcomes were found. It was concluded that PND possibly increases risk vulnerability in the presence of recurrent, concurrent, and antenatal maternal depression but that these latter factors alone may be the stronger specific predictors. Limitations of the review are discussed as well as implications for future research and clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / diagnosis
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Depression, Postpartum / diagnosis
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations / psychology*
  • Mothers / psychology*