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Maternal depression during pregnancy and offspring depression in adulthood: role of child maltreatment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-220
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2015


  • Plant_et_al_2015

    Plant_et_al_2015.pdf, 369 KB, application/pdf


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King's Authors


Background: Studies have shown that maternal depression during pregnancy predicts offspring depression in adolescence. Child maltreatment is also a risk factor for depression.

Aims: To investigate (a) whether there is an association between offspring exposure to maternal depression in pregnancy and depression in early adulthood, and (b) whether offspring child maltreatment mediates this association.

Method: Prospectively collected data on maternal clinical depression in pregnancy, offspring child maltreatment and offspring adulthood (18–25 years) DSM-IV depression were analysed in 103 mother–offspring dyads of the South London Child Development Study.

Results: Adult offspring exposed to maternal depression in pregnancy were 3.4 times more likely to have a DSM-IV depressive disorder, and 2.4 times more likely to have experienced child maltreatment, compared with non-exposed offspring. Path analysis revealed that offspring experience of child maltreatment mediated the association between exposure to maternal depression in pregnancy and depression in adulthood.

Conclusions: Maternal depression in pregnancy is a key vulnerability factor for offspring depression in early adulthood.

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