There is no denying the inherent link between parents and children but a new study suggests it may be more than instincts. In this study, researchers found that alleviation of depression symptoms in teens could also improve the mood of parents.
According to Kelsey R. Howard, MS, of Northwestern University “More young people today are reporting persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness and suicidal thoughts. At the same time, suicide rates have climbed in nearly all U.S. states. This research may help healthcare providers as we grapple as a nation with how to address these alarming trends.”
For this study, 325 teens diagnosed with depression—along with 325 of their parents or caregivers—were randomly assigned to one of three focus groups. The first group received cognitive behavioral therapy. The second group was given antidepressants. The third group received a combination of therapy and medication. The primary treatment period ran for almost one year and then each participant was assigned another year of follow-up visits.
Simply put, one-quarter of the parents who participated reported at least a moderate improvement in depression levels.
Study co-author Mark A. Reinecke, Ph.D. explains, “Depression is a massive public health concern that will take a variety of approaches to better manage. We believe our study is among the first to evaluate how the emotional health of a child can impact that of the parent.”
The process was not based on family—just basic, accessible treatment options, though sometimes the treatment involved the parents. Regardless, the results of the study seem to indicate that, simply, there is a positive ripple effect in the parental mood when a teen’s depression severity lessens.
Obviously, this findings could be useful for doctors and clinicians as they provide another source of analysis when attempting to treat a teen’s depression.
Howard goes on to say, “The concept of emotions being ‘contagious’ and spreading from person to person is well-known by psychologists. This work opens up a range of possibilities for future research on the family-wide effects of treatment for adolescent depression.”
Finally, Howard concludes, “We found that parental depression symptoms improved over the course of the study,” adding “We’re social creatures. We exist in families, we exist in social networks. And a lot of our well-being, a lot of our highs and lows might come from these relationships.”