• ISSN: 2010-3646 (Online)
    • Abbreviated Title: Int. J. Social. Scienc. Humanit.
    • Frequency: Bimonthly
    • DOI: 10.18178/IJSSH
    • Editor-in-Chief: Prof. Paul Sudnik
    • Executive Editor: Ms. Yoyo Y. Zhou
    • Abstracting/ Indexing: Google Scholar, Index Copernicus, Crossref, Electronic Journals Library
    • E-mail: ijssh@ejournal.net
Home> Archive> 2022> Volume 12 Number 1 ( Feb. 2022)
IJSSH 2022 Vol.12(1): 57-61 ISSN: 2010-3646
doi: 10.18178/ijssh.2022.V12.1066

The Biological Mechanism of Maternal Depression’s Negative Influences on Offspring Development: A Review

Jullian Wang
Abstract—Maternal depression is a prevalent disorder among mothers: nearly 20% of women have experienced different levels of depressive symptoms during motherhood. The symptoms usually disappear by three years after their children were born, but some women experience them chronically. Maternal depression has been researched in terms of its negative influence on offspring since the 1960s. Children of chronically depressed mothers show delays in cognitive, emotional, and behavioral development. Moreover, they may even face mental health challenges themselves. How does maternal depression influence offspring? Previous studies have focused on the behaviors of mothers and found that mothers with depression interact with their children in a less engaging way. Recently, more researchers started to pay attention to the biological mechanism of this maternal depression’s negative influence. Cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, is regarded as a potential pathway of the transgenerational transmission of depression. Mothers with prenatal depression have elevated cortisol level during pregnancy, which is passed down to their children. After they are born, children of depressed mothers react to stress with more dramatic changes in cortisol level and compromised stress-coping abilities. Moreover, prenatal maternal depression also seems to shape the functional connectivity of amygdala, a brain area related to stress and emotions. For life situations like schooling, competing with peers or making significant decisions, children with decreased or abnormal stress-coping abilities will be in disadvantageous positions. Attenuated stress coping abilities brought by hormonal and neural changes may be a biological mechanism for children’s lower performance in cognitive and behavioral tasks.

Index Terms—cortisol, maternal depression, offspring development, stress

Jullian Wang is with Shanghai Guanghua University Cambridge International Center, Shanghai, China (e-mail: 939726555@qq.com).


Cite: Jullian Wang, "The Biological Mechanism of Maternal Depression’s Negative Influences on Offspring Development: A Review," International Journal of Social Science and Humanity vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 57-61, 2022.

Copyright ©2022 by the authors. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricteduse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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