The mothers' histories "predict" their own children's anti-social behaviour, according to a long-term child development study.
Inner-city mothers who suffer depression during pregnancy are four times more likely to have children who become violent teenagers, a study has revealed.
And women who are "aggressive and disruptive" in their own adolescence are the likeliest to suffer depression in pregnancy.
Researchers at Cardiff University, King's College London and the University of Bristol examined the role of mothers' depression in pregnancy by looking at 120 British youths from urban areas.
Psychology Professor Dale F Hay, of Cardiff University, said: "Much attention has been given to the effects of postnatal depression on young infants, but depression during pregnancy may also affect the unborn child."
The children's mothers were interviewed while they were pregnant, after they gave birth, and when their children were 4, 11, and 16 years old. The study found that mothers who became depressed when pregnant were four times as likely to have children who were violent at 16. This was true for both boys and girls.
The mothers' depression, in turn, was predicted by their own aggressive and disruptive behaviour as teens, the team found.
The link between depression in pregnancy and the children's violence could not be explained by other factors in the families' environments. These include social class, ethnicity, the mothers' age, education, marital status, or IQ. Nor could suffering depression at other times in the children's lives account for the connection.
Prof Hay added: "Although it's not yet clear exactly how depression in pregnancy might set infants on a pathway toward increased anti-social behaviour, our findings suggest that women with a history of conduct problems who become depressed in pregnancy may be in special need of support."
The findings appear in the January/February issue of the journal Child Development.
The Press Association has contributed to the report.
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