Maternal depression and its impact on child development

The importance of early life experience for future health is well recognised. It has been shown that investment during pregnancy and the early postnatal years has the best rate of return for future health.

This research theme focuses on the effects of prenatal and postnatal exposures (such as maternal depression) on offspring outcomes and aims to better understand the mechanisms by which exposure to depression at different times can affect child outcomes including future psychopathology. The role of parenting as a mediator is of particular interest along with better ways of measuring interactions between a mother and their infant. The latter work is undertaken in collaboration with the data capture theme in the IEU. 

There is also work on the development and evaluation of complex interventions to improve maternal and paternal depression and child outcomes. This group hosts the IMPRovE health integration team that aims to improve the identification of, services and support for, parents with mental health issues before and after the birth of their child.

The academics working in this area include: Jonathan Evans, Rebecca Pearson, Iryna Culpin, Rebecca Carnegie, Hannah Sallis (PhD student) and Miguel Cordora (PhD student).  The group has links with academics leading the Pelotas birth cohorts in Brazil and the Postgraduate Programme in Epidemiology at the Universidade Federal de Pelotas. We also have close links with Professor Alan Stein (Oxford University) and Dr Heather O’Mahen (University of Exeter). 

Selected current and recent grants

  • Newton Advanced Fellowship Dr. Rebecca Pearson and Dr. Tamsen Rochat  Conduct disorders, executive function and parenting in South African children (£126,904) start date 01/09/2016                                      
  • Evans J (Joint HIT Director), Shepherd I (Joint HIT Director), Pearson R, Liebling R, Jackson R, Jaeckle S, Lockyer-Sheppard R, Tilling K, Ford J.  Improving perinatal mental health through research and education. The IMPRovE Health Integration Team (HIT). Bristol Health Partners. £9,500. November 2014 – November 2015.
  • Pearson R. The protective role of maternal education on the association between postnatal depression and offspring affective disorders. Elizabeth Blackwell Institute Early Career Fellowship (Wellcome Trust & University of Bristol). £112,154. December 2013 – February 2015.
  • Pearson R. The impact of personality disorders on maternal learning of infant preferences: a computational modelling approach. UNESCO/L’Oreal Women in Science Highly Commended Award. £1000.  June 2015
  • Evans J, Wiles NJ, O’Mahen H, Ramchandani P, Sharp D, Turner K. A randomised trial of cognitive therapy for antenatal depression (ANTICIPATE). NIHR Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) SW. £248,997. 2009 – 2011.
  • Evans J, Pearson R, Heron J, Joinson C.  Maternal depression and mother infant interactions.  ESRC £79,874.00.  October 2010 - October 2013. 

Selected publications

  • Pearson, R. M., Campbell, A., Howard, L. M., Bornstein, M. H., O'Mahen, H., Mars, B., & Moran, P. (2017).  Impact of dysfunctional maternal personality traits on risk of offspring depression, anxiety and self-harm at age 18 years: a population-based longitudinal study. Psychological medicine, 1-11. (*this one relates to  that news story on main site can link)
  • Lee, R., Skinner, A., Bornstein, M. H., Radford, A. N., Campbell, A., Graham, K., & Pearson, R. M. (2017). Through babies' eyes: Practical and theoretical considerations of using wearable technology to measure parent-infant behaviour from the mothers' and infants' view points. Infant behavior & development47, 62.
  • Taylor, A. K., Netsi, E., O'Mahen, H., Stein, A., Evans, J., & Pearson, R. M. (2017). The association between maternal postnatal depressive symptoms and offspring sleep problems in adolescence. Psychological medicine, 47(3), 451. ( again this has a link to a news story from a few months ago ) 
  • Freitasā€Vilela, A. A., Pearson, R. M., Emmett, P., Heron, J., Smith, A. D., Emond, A., ... & Kac, G. (2017). Maternal dietary patterns during pregnancy and intelligence quotients in the offspring at 8 years of age: Findings from the ALSPAC cohort. Maternal & Child Nutrition.
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