Depressive reaction to stressful life experiences and its impact on mother-child interaction

Depression constitutes a typical, introverted reaction to highly stressful life events. Epidemiological studies have demonstrated that adults suffering from depression frequently have a history of childhood stress experiences. Up to now, the particular effects that depressive reactions to such stress have on the offspring remain poorly understood. Both maternal trauma and depression have (in separate studies) been shown (a) to negatively affect the interaction between mother and child and (b) to feature strikingly similar neurobiological alterations in emotion processing in the mothers. However, it remains elusive as to how these effects of maternal stress experiences and depression interact and can be dissociated. The subproject of the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin is investigating how maternal early-life stress and depression impact on psychological and (neuro)biological correlates of maternal sensitivity and affect regulation and on the responsiveness, quality of life, and development of children (5-11 years old). Additionally the efficiency of intervention programs will be investigated, the aim of the first being to improve mother-child interactions and of the second to learn skills for coping with stress. Data from Berlin (in depressed mothers with and without stressful experiences in childhood) will be compared with data from Heidelberg (in mothers without depression). In this way, we can investigate how effects of early-life stress and depression interact and can be disentangled.

Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy:

project management: Prof. Dr. med. Andreas Heinz, Prof. Dr. med. Felix Bermpohl
research associate: Dr. rer. nat. Catherine Hindi Attar, Dipl.-Psych. Dorothea Kluczniok, Jenny Neubecker, Sina Poppinga, Neele Ridder

Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy:

project management: Prof. Dr. med. Ulrike Lehmkuhl, Dr. phil. Dipl.-Psych. Katja Bödeker
research associate: Katja Dittrich, Dipl.-Psych. Daniel Führer, Dany Hoenack, Dipl.-Psych. Charlotte Jaite, Dipl.-Psych. Viola Kappel