Bringing up children

Parenting expert Maggie Dent joined TODAY with advice on the right form of punishment for children.


People with a history of abuse or maltreatment during childhood are twice as likely to have recurrent episodes of depression in adulthood, according to scientists.

These individuals are also less likely to respond well to psychological or drug-based treatments.

Researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) at King's College London pooled information from 26 studies that included data from more than 26,000 people.

According to the World Health Organisation, depression will become the second most prominent contributor to the health burden across all ages by 2020.

In their meta-analysis, the researchers examined data from 16 epidemiological studies involving more than 23,000 people and 10 clinical trials involving more than 3,000 people.

Rudolf Uher of the IoP, who co-authored the study, said the researchers used five indicators of maltreatment in analysing the work: rejecting interaction from a mother; harsh discipline reported by a parent; unstable primary caregiver arrangement throughout childhood; and self-reports of harsh physical or sexual maltreatment.

If a person only had history of one of these indicators, they were classed as probable in terms of maltreatment. If a participant had two indicators, they were classed as definitely maltreated.

The results of the study, published on Monday in the American Journal of Psychiatry, showed that someone with one or more indicators of childhood maltreatment had a chance of developing recurrent depression in later life around 2.27 times higher than that of people who had no history of maltreatment. They were also 43% more likely to experience a poor outcome when it came to psychological or drug-based treatment.

Study also found that being treated badly as a child might also have meant poor performance at school, leading to less likelihood of getting a good job and other associated problems. Previous research has shown biological changes in children who are treated badly because of the stress placed on their bodies, including the brain, the hormonal and immune systems.

"There are a number of research papers showing that, for example, maltreated children have, already in childhood, abnormalities in the pre-frontal cortex that may have an impact on their neuropsychological function, especially executive function, things like sustained attention or regulating emotions," said Danese. These biological differences might explain some of the observed increase in recurrent depression, he said, but that link would have to be established in further research.

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