Depressed Mothers Often
Blame Their Problem Children
Depressed mothers believe their children are to blame
Depressed mothers are more likely to pin the blame for problem behaviour in their children on the youngsters themselves, researchers have found.
Psychologists Dr Christine Barrowclough, of Manchester University, and Dr Caroline White, of Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, compared two groups of mothers - 25 were depressed, 25 non-depressed.
Both groups had pre-school children with problem behaviours, and lived in a socially disadvantaged area of South Manchester.
When they talked about their children, these mothers gave lots of explanations for difficult behaviours such as sleep disturbance, temper tantrums and destructive behaviour.
However, depressed mothers offered more reasons that suggested the child was responsible or to blame for the problems, whereas non-depressed women tended either to blame outside factors or to treat the problems as normal behaviour.
Negative attitude
Dr White said: "Some people argue that depression alters perception, that depressed people see everything in a much more negative way.
"The depressed mothers in our study tended to see problem behaviour as something that was either innate within the child, or something that the child was doing on purpose specifically to get at them.
"For instance, if a child wet the bed a non-depressed mother would say he has not been well for the last couple of days, whereas a depressed mother would say he did it because he is lazy.
"Laziness is an innate physical characteristic that is unlikely to change."
Dr White said helping parents to understand the links between their mood and parenting behaviour would be an important initial step in enabling them to cope better with their children's difficult behaviour.
She said problem behaviour could often result directly from bad parenting skills, in turn a result of a negative attitude towards life in general.
The study is published in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology.