According to researchers, parental depression contributes to greater brain activity in areas linked to risk taking in adolescent children, leading to more rule-breaking behaviours.
“This is the first evidence to show that parental depression influences children’s behaviour through the change in the adolescent’s brain,” said lead study author Yang Qu from University Of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
There are a lot of changes happening in the teenage years, especially when we are thinking about risk-taking behaviours, added another researcher Eva Telzer.
The study, published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, analysed 23 adolescents aged 15 to 17, with cognitive testing and brain imaging at the beginning and end of the 18-month study.
To measure parental depression, the team collected data from the parents on their own depressive symptoms and who were not currently being treated for clinical depression.
They also collected information on the adolescents’ rule-breaking behaviours, such as sneaking out without parental permission, substance abuse and partying.
The findings indicated that adolescents whose parents had greater depressive symptoms increased their risk-taking over the course of the study.
“Even if you are not clinically depressed and seeking out help, your teenager is probably picking up on the negative emotions that you may be experiencing,” Telzer noted.