Antisocial and borderline personality disorders in the offspring of antenatally depressed mothers - a follow-up until mid-adulthood in the Northern Finland 1966 birth cohort

Nord J Psychiatry. 2020 Feb;74(2):138-146. doi: 10.1080/08039488.2019.1681508. Epub 2019 Oct 24.


Background: Maternal depression is common during pregnancy, affecting 10-15% of mothers. In previous reports, the offspring of antenatally depressed mothers have had an elevated risk for antisocial, criminal and violent behaviour in adolescence, and for borderline personality features in childhood, but long-term outcomes are unknown.Aims: To study whether the adult offspring of antenatally depressed mothers have an elevated risk for antisocial (ASPD) or borderline personality disorder (BPD) when followed until mid-adulthood.Methods: In the general population-based Northern Finland 1966 Birth Cohort, mothers of 12,058 children were asked during mid-gestation if they felt depressed. Of the mothers, 14% reported being depressed. The offspring were followed for 49 years. The diagnoses of in- and outpatient-treated ASPD and BPD in the offspring were detected using the Finnish Care Register for Healthcare. Maternal antenatal smoking, newborn´s low birthweight or short gestational age, father's social class, and family type at birth were considered as confounding variables. Logistic regression analyses on the potential confounders were performed. Maternal postnatal depression and paternal ASPD information was not available.Results: In the male offspring of antenatally depressed mothers, the risk for ASPD was elevated (adjusted odds ratio 5.6; 95% confidence interval 1.8-17.8), but not in female offspring. The risk for BPD was not elevated in the offspring of antenatally depressed mothers in this study.Conclusions: The sons of antenatally depressed mothers had an increased risk for ASPD. Prevention and treatment of antenatal depression might present an opportunity to decrease the risk of antisocial personality in the offspring.

Keywords: Antenatal depression; Northern Finland 1966 birth cohort; antisocial personality disorder; borderline personality disorder; maternal depression during pregnancy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents / statistics & numerical data*
  • Depressive Disorder / complications*
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult