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Mother’s early mental illness may affect children’s schooling

Mother’s early mental illness may affect children’s schooling

The earlier a mother is diagnosed with a mental illness, the more likely her children are not to make it through primary and lower secondary school and complete the school’s final exam. This is the result of new research from Aarhus BSS.

27.05.2019 | MICHAEL SCHRØDER

PHOTO: Colourbox

The correlation between a mother’s mental illness and her children’s ability to complete primary and lower secondary school has been documented in several previous studies. In the new study, researchers from Denmark and the US demonstrate that the timing of the onset of the mother’s mental illness also matters significantly.

Children of mothers who were hospitalised or received outpatient treatment for a mental illness before becoming pregnant are thus significantly more at risk of not completing primary and lower secondary school before the age of 18.

If the mother was diagnosed one to 16 years after giving birth, the risk of the child failing to complete primary and lower secondary school decreased. However, the correlation was still significant.

“We can observe the correlation between the onset of the maternal disorder and the child’s ability to complete the school’s final exam after we take into account the mother’s age at the time of birth and any mental illnesses that the child or the father may have,” says Postdoc and PhD Katja Glejsted Ingstrup from the Department of Economics and Business Economics, who headed the project.

"The study contributes to our general understanding and knowledge of the consequences of mental illnesses"

Katja Glejsted Ingstrup - ph.d. postdoc, National Centre for Register-based Research, Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus BSS

Most severe types of mental illnesses

The study was conducted at the National Centre for Register-based Research at the Department of Economics and Business Economics in collaboration with researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine in the US and the Psychiatric Register Center in the Mental Health Center, Copenhagen. The results have been published in the recognised scientific journal JAMA Psychiatry.

“The results suggest that there is a correlation between maternal mental disorders and the risk that the child does not complete primary and lower secondary school. They also suggest that the timing of the onset of the maternal mental disorder matters.  When the mother was diagnosed with a mental illness before becoming pregnant, the risk was greatest. There may be many explanations for these correlations. For example, the foetus may be negatively affected by the mother’s stress or medicine consumption during the pregnancy,” says Katja Glejsted Ingstrup.

“Later in the child’s life, the bond between parents and child as well as the level of stimulation and nurturance may play a role,” she says.

The study concerns mothers who have either been hospitalised or received outpatient treatment for their mental illnesses, which also is the most severe types of mental illnesses. In the article, the researchers also point out that study was limited by the fact that it was not possible to adjust for the child’s IQ.

“However, the study contributes to our general understanding and knowledge of the consequences of mental illnesses and how they may affect children, parents and families as a whole. This knowledge is extremely important for society to be able to provide the most effective help,” says Katja Glejsted Ingstrup.

Source:

Ingstrup, K. G., Laursen, T. M., Bergink, V., Ranning, A., & Munk-Olsen, T. (2019). Association of Timing of Onset of Maternal Mental Disorders With Completion of Primary Education in Offspring. JAMA psychiatry

Read the article here

Note:

The project is financed by Aarhus University Research Foundation, the Lundbeck Foundation (iPsych), the private Danish foundation Fabrikant Vilhelm Pedersen og Hustrus Legat, The Blavatnik Family Women’s Health Research Institute and the Dutch organisation for scientific research, NWO.