Daughters of Older Moms More Prone to Depression

Father’s age not a factor; effect not seen in sons, study says.

The daughters, but not the sons, of women who give birth at age 30 or older are more likely to experience symptoms of depression as young adults, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

“This study suggests that older maternal age is associated with symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress in young adult females,” said Jessica Tearne, a doctoral student at the University of Western Australia and lead author of the study. It appears in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

Tearne and her colleagues analyzed data from the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study. From 1989-91, pregnant women were recruited into this study, and provided psychological and demographic information. The resulting offspring then underwent psychological assessment at various ages over the next 23 years.

In this study, the researchers looked at self-reported levels of various symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress from 1,200 of the offspring at age 20 and compared them with the age of the mother and father at the time the children were born. Daughters whose mothers were age 30 to 34 when they gave birth reported significantly higher levels of stress and those whose mothers were over age 35 at the time of birth had significantly higher levels of stress, depression and anxiety compared with daughters whose mothers were under age 30.

While 5 percent of the mothers were under age 20 when they gave birth, there was no effect for giving birth in that age group. The fathers’ age at the time of birth also had no effect, and there was no effect found for sons.

While the exact cause of this relationship is not clear, Tearne said she suspects it is not necessarily biological.

“One hypothesis is difficulties may occur in the mother-daughter relationship because of a large age difference between the two,” said Tearne. “It may be that a 30 or more year age difference between mother and daughter leads to a significant difference in the value systems that may cause tensions in the relationship, leading to stress, worry and sadness in the child, particularly during the transition to young adulthood.”

Photo of baby girl decorations from a baby shower.
Another possible explanation may be that the women who gave birth over age 30 would be in their 50s at the time their children were assessed and therefore more likely to be experiencing health problems associated with aging. Image is for illustrative purposes only.

Another possible explanation may be that the women who gave birth over age 30 would be in their 50s at the time their children were assessed and therefore more likely to be experiencing health problems associated with aging. This could also lead to higher levels of symptoms in the children, Tearne said. Other studies have suggested that daughters are more affected by their mother’s health problems than sons, which could explain why the effect only appears in daughters, she said.

“It is important to remember, too, that the study examined symptoms of distress, rather than clinical diagnosis,” said Monique Robinson, PhD, of the University of Western Australia, another author of the study. “It could be that the offspring of older mothers are at risk for a few more symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, but that does not necessarily mean they will experience a diagnosable mental disorder.”

[divider]About this psychology research[/divider]

Source: Jim Sliwa – APA
Image Source: The image is in the public domain
Original Research: Abstract for “Older Maternal Age is Associated with Depression, Anxiety and Stress Symptoms in Young Adult Female Offspring” by Jessica Tearne, BA, Monique Robinson, PhD, Peter Jacoby, MSc, Karina Allen, PhD, Nadia Cunningham, BA, and Neil McLean, MA, The University of Western Australia, and Jianghong Li, PhD, and WZB Berlin Social Research Center in Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Published online November 16 2015 doi:10.1037/abn0000119


Abstract

Older Maternal Age is Associated with Depression, Anxiety and Stress Symptoms in Young Adult Female Offspring

The evidence regarding older parental age and incidence of mood disorder symptoms in offspring is limited, and that which exists is mixed. We sought to clarify these relationships by using data from the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study. The Raine Study provided comprehensive data from 2,900 pregnancies, resulting in 2,868 live born children. A total of 1,220 participants completed the short form of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS-21) at the 20-year cohort follow-up. We used negative binomial regression analyses with log link and with adjustment for known perinatal risk factors to examine the extent to which maternal and paternal age at childbirth predicted continuous DASS-21 index scores. In the final multivariate models, a maternal age of 30–34 years was associated with significant increases in stress DASS-21 scores in female offspring relative to female offspring of 25- to 29-year-old mothers. A maternal age of 35 years and over was associated with increased scores on all DASS-21 scales in female offspring. Our results indicate that older maternal age is associated with depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms in young adult females. Further research into the mechanisms underpinning this relationship is needed.

“Older Maternal Age is Associated with Depression, Anxiety and Stress Symptoms in Young Adult Female Offspring” by Jessica Tearne, BA, Monique Robinson, PhD, Peter Jacoby, MSc, Karina Allen, PhD, Nadia Cunningham, BA, and Neil McLean, MA, The University of Western Australia, and Jianghong Li, PhD, and WZB Berlin Social Research Center in Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Published online November 16 2015 doi:10.1037/abn0000119

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