Small Steps Can Be Big Help For Children Of Mothers With Depression – ScienceDaily

Several new studies among Syrian refugee families in Turkey and families with infants in Sweden and Bhutan show that children of mothers with poor mental health are at risk of lagging behind in their cognitive development. However, very small changes can be enough to break this correlation and allow children to return to their normal developmental level. Having a lot of people around them and an available community are two of the most important factors in helping children in all three countries.

“If you improve mothers’ mental health by four percent, the child gains a whole year in cognitive development, in statistical terms. Small steps, in other words, can make a big difference in supporting the next generation. “says Gustaf Gredebäck, professor of developmental psychology at Uppsala University and director of the Uppsala Child and Baby Lab, which led the studies.

The research was carried out through interviews and experimental studies on site in Bhutan, Turkey and Sweden. In Sweden and Bhutan, 120 families with infants aged 9-10 months participated. In Turkey, 100 families who had fled Aleppo in Syria participated in the study. They have children between the ages of 6 and 18. In Sweden, families with young children were the main participants in research conducted by Uppsala Child and Baby Lab. In Bhutan, the material was collected in collaboration with the Faculty of Nursing and Public Health and the Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan. In Turkey, the studies were carried out with the assistance of researchers from the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University.

A common finding for families in all three countries was that many of the children’s cognitive abilities were affected by the mental health of their mothers, whether they were a refugee family in Syria or the family was in a safe environment in Sweden. . The child’s intelligence did not seem to have been affected; rather, it was the child’s attention, social understanding and ability to make decisions that were negatively affected.

The individual conditions around the mother can make the situation worse. The impact on the child is greater if the mother has a low level of education, low social support, feels discriminated against and has lost her social status. But there are also clear initiatives that society can take to improve the situation and the well-being of the mother, and thus reduce the impact on the child: receive the support of her partner, have a large family or a network. broad social, and that society mobilizes and supports the mother.

“All cultures have positive aspects. In Sweden we have our individualistic environments. We have more gender equality, for example, being able to share parental leave can be a form of relief. At the same time, we have little natural meeting places for relatives and social situations, which is much stronger in groups in other countries. In Bhutan, an active religious life helps a lot. There is a strong connection to religion, and many people attend religious gatherings several times a week. This gives them routines for regular meetings with others and broad social support. “

It is important to note that all the correlations described are statistical, that is, based on observations between different parts of the studies. Researchers have yet to investigate the causality of the correlations in improving the mental health of mothers in at-risk settings and measuring the effects on children’s development. This will be the next step after the current correlation studies.

“It inspires hope that apparently only small improvements are needed for the child to wake up. In Sweden we have to work hard to break the isolation, especially for single mothers. We have no connection. social. Many lack strong bonds with loved ones. and have no extended family to share the burden. We lack continuity in religious rites and do not have many natural contexts to connect to. If we can create more. with these opportunities, we can help turn the tide in the cognitive development of many children and provide them with better lives, ”says Gustaf Gredebäck.

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Materials provided by Uppsala University. Original written by Elin Bäckström. Note: Content can be changed for style and length.

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