_PUBLIC HEALTH Mental Health

_Parental Blues & Poor Grades

There’s a connection between depression in parents and poor academic performance by their children.

_Félice Lê-Scherban

Lê-Scherban is an assistant professor in the Dornsife School of Public Health.

_Brian Lee

Lee is an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in the School of Public Health and a fellow at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute.

In a massive study of more than one million children, researchers found that parental depression at home coincides with lower grades in class, which can have lasting repercussions as children mature.

The Drexel-led team found that children whose mothers had been diagnosed with depression are likely to achieve grades that are 4.5 percentage points lower than peers whose mothers had not been diagnosed with depression. For children whose fathers were diagnosed with depression, the difference is 4 percentage points lower.

“Anything that creates an uneven playing field for children in terms of their education can potentially have strong implications for health inequities down the road.”

—Félice Lê-Sherban,
Dornsife School of Public Health

Put into other terms, when compared with a student who achieved a 90 percent, a student whose mother or father had been diagnosed with depression would be more likely to achieve a score in the 85–86 percent range.

How well a student does in school has a large bearing on future job and income opportunities, which has heavy public health implications, says Félice Lê-Scherban, assistant professor in the Dornsife School of Public Health. On average in the United States, she says, an adult without a high school degree earns half as much as one of their peers with a college degree and also has a life expectancy that is about 10 years lower.

-4.5%

Children whose mothers had been diagnosed with depression are likely to achieve grades that are 4.5 percentage points lower than peers whose mothers had not been diagnosed with depression.

The research team, which included faculty from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, and the University of Bristol in England, conducted a cohort study of more than 1 million children born from 1984 until 1994 in Sweden. Using computerized data registers, the scientists linked parents’ depression diagnoses with their children’s final grades at age 16, when compulsory schooling ends in Sweden.