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The unexpected depression symptom every new parent should be aware of

A new study reveals one important factor was shown to help.

The unexpected  depression symptom every new parent should be aware of

Parental depression or anxiety can look like anger. It can look like fatigue. It can look like sadness.


And, as a new study shows, parental depression can also look like overreacting.

The fact of the matter is depression looks different for different people—and we need to talk about this range of experiences if we stand any chance of giving parents the help they need.

According to study recently published in the journal Child Development that looked at a longitudinal sample of 519 adoptive families with infants found that both mothers and fathers who struggle with depression are more prone to overreacting or parenting “harshly.” For the parents, this looked like displays of anger, meanness or irritability in response to challenges from their infants.

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Although the study was focused on adoptive families, anger is a common symptom of depression for anyone. As Robyn Landa described of her experience with parental depression and rage in an essay for Motherly:

“My toddler could put his shoes on the wrong feet and I would become so angry I could spit nails. He could accidentally forget to flush the toilet and I would become hot under the collar with rage. He once asked if he could have cereal instead of waffles for breakfast and I acted like the world was ending. This is when I knew I wanted help.”

But the new study reveals one important factor was shown to help: When the other partner was satisfied with their social support outside of the relationship, the partner struggling with depression didn’t display the tendency to overreact.

“For parents who have a depressed spouse, it may be important to have sustaining social relationships—with friends, extended family, and others—outside the marriage,” says Lindsay Taraban, a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, who led the study. “Through such relationships, parents may receive advice and empathy that increases their ability to support their depressed spouse and positively shape his or her parenting behavior.”

The researchers found that 27-month-old children of mothers (but not fathers) who reported overreacting as a symptom of depression earlier in the children’s lives “are at risk for a variety of negative outcomes—including more frequent behavior problems.”

This is why giving mothers the resources and support to cope with depression is not “just a maternal health issue,” but one that affects every member of the family.

The research also proves that we need to do a better job of educating parents on the range of symptoms associated with depression and need to support the other members of the family.

Says Daniel Shaw, distinguished professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, who co-authored the study, “Practitioners should encourage not only depressed parents, but also their partners, to practice self-care so they have adequate support and can help create a warm, sensitive rearing environment for their young children.”

The more attention and support we bring to this cause, the better we’ll all be.

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    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

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    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

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    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

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    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

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    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

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    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

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    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

    This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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