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Intergenerational Transmission of Depression: Clinical Observations and Molecular Mechanisms

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Early online date3 Oct 2018
Accepted/In press20 Aug 2018
E-pub ahead of print3 Oct 2018


King's Authors


Maternal mental illness can have a devastating effect during the perinatal period, and has a profound impact on the care that the baby receives and on the relationships that the baby forms. This review summarises clinical evidence showing the effects of perinatal depression on offspring physical and behavioural development, and on the transmission of psychopathology between generations. We then evaluate a number of factors which influence this relationship, such as genetic factors, the use of psychotropic medications during pregnancy, the timing within the perinatal period, the sex of the fetus, and exposure to maltreatment in childhood. Finally, we examine recent findings regarding the molecular mechanisms underpinning these clinical observations, and identify relevant epigenetic and biomarker changes in the glucocorticoid, oxytocin, estrogen and immune systems, as key biological mediators of these clinical findings. By understanding these molecular mechanisms in more detail, we will be able to improve outcomes for both mothers and their offspring for generations

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