Parent’s Addictions tied to Adult Children’s Depression

Parents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol are more than twice as likely to have children who develop depression in adulthood, according to a report published online in the journal Psychiatry Research.

For the study, researchers at the University of Toronto examined the association between parental addictions and adult depression in a sample of 6,268 adults, taken from the 2005 Canadian Community Health Survey. Among the subjects, 312 had a major depressive episode within the year preceding the survey and 877 reported that while they were under the age of 18 and still living at home that at least one parent drank or used drugs “so often that it caused problems for the family.”

Parental addictions were associated with more than twice the odds of adult depression, said lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, Ph.D., of the University of Toronto.

“Even after adjusting for factors ranging from childhood maltreatment and parental unemployment to adult health behaviors including smoking and alcohol consumption, we found that parental addictions were associated with 69 per cent higher odds of depression in adulthood,” she said. “These findings underscore the intergenerational consequences of drug and alcohol addiction and reinforce the need to develop interventions that support healthy childhood development,” said Fuller-Thomson. “As an important first step, children who experience toxic stress at home can be greatly helped by the stable involvement of caring adults, including grandparents, teachers, coaches, neighbors and social workers.

“Although more research is needed to determine if access to a responsive and loving adult decreases the likelihood of adult depression among children exposed to parental addictions, we do know that these caring relationships promote healthy development and buffer stress.”

The study was unable to determine the exact cause of the relationship between parental addictions and adult depression.

According to co-author and graduate student Robyn Katz, ”It is possible that the prolonged and inescapable strain of parental addictions may permanently alter the way these children’s bodies reacts to stress throughout their life.

“One important avenue for future research is to investigate potential dysfunctions in cortisol production – the hormone that prepares us for ‘fight or flight’ –which may influence the later development of depression.”

Source:  University of Toronto

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