Serious depression in parents and caregivers can affect far more than the adults who are ill. It also influences the well-being of the children in their care. The first joint Working Paper from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child and the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs summarizes recent evidence on the potentially far-reaching harmful effects of chronic and severe maternal depression on families and children. When children grow up in an environment of mental illness, the development of their brains may be seriously weakened, with implications for their ability to learn as well as for their own later physical and mental health. This report examines why the continuing failure to address the consequences of depression for large numbers of vulnerable, young children presents a missed opportunity to help families and children in a way that could support the future prosperity and well-being of society as a whole.
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