Depression During Pregnancy, Unhealthy Diet, and Child Emotional Dysregulation

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One reason that depression is linked to later “emotional dysregulation” problems in children could be because depressed mothers often have less healthy diets and later feed their children less well, according to a study in Psychological Medicine.

Led by Kings College London researchers, the study examined information gathered from 7814 mother–child pairs who gave birth from 1991-92 during the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children in the South West of England. They looked at the associations between maternal depression symptoms, unhealthy diet, and child “emotional dysregulation” — the latter of which was identified using scales assessing activity, adaptability, intensity and mood in children.

“Study results indicated that higher levels of maternal depression symptoms during pregnancy were associated with higher unhealthy diet of the child provided by the caregiver(s) – in the case of the present study, mothers – during the postnatal period, which, in turn, led to higher levels of child emotional–behavioural dysregulation at the age of 7 years,” wrote the researchers.

Pina-Camacho, L., S. K. Jensen, D. Gaysina, and E. D. Barker. “Maternal Depression Symptoms, Unhealthy Diet and Child Emotional–behavioural Dysregulation.” Psychological Medicine 45, no. 09 (July 2015): 1851–60. doi:10.1017/S0033291714002955. (Abstract)