It is estimated that around 15% of mothers suffer from postnatal depression. Postnatal depression is associated with significant difficulties in mothers' communication with their children including reduced responsiveness and sensitivity and more withdrawn, or at the other extreme more intrusive, behaviour. Several long-term studies have found poor cognitive functioning in children whose mothers suffered from postnatal depression but its long-term effect on academic outcome is unknown. A team of researchers from the universities of Reading and Cambridge studied 89 children, 50 of whose mothers had suffered from postnatal depression. They looked at the effects on GCSE (the post 16 exam qualification in the UK) performance of mothers' depression, IQ, the sex of the child and their earlier cognitive development. Boys, but not girls, whose mothers had suffered from postnatal depression did worse at GCSE. This was mostly accounted for by the effects of childhood cognition problems which persisted throughout the children's childhood. Post-natal depression carried on having negative effects on the mothers' interactions with their children and these also contributed to poorer GCSE performance. Neither recent nor long-term exposure to later maternal depression had significant effects on GCSE results.
Murray, Lynne ... [et al] - The effects of maternal postnatal depression and child sex on academic performance at age 16 years: a developmental approach Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry October 2010, 51(10), 1150-1159