Did Your Parents Stay in School?

Mental Health is influenced by parents level of education

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Many things in childhood and from our parental upbringing greatly influence our lifelong mental health. But could the level of education your parents attained be one of them?

A recent study has shed light on the relationship between depression and low socioeconomic status, which appears to be tied in with the level of a parent's education.

"More education improves lives for children."

Amélie Quesnel-Vallée, a medical sociologist from McGill University in Canada, led research that looked at 29 years of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79). Using this data, Quesnel-Vallée and her co-author, Miles Taylor of Florida State University, analyzed the links between a parent's education level and the education level of their children, household income, and depressive symptoms.

The higher the level of parental education, the fewer mental health issues in adulthood for the offspring. The children with the lowest prevalence of depressive episodes had parents with the highest levels of education.

Researchers said that the level of parental education had an inverse relationship with their children's depressive symptoms in adulthood.

"Adult depressive symptoms are the outcome of life course pathways of social attainment rooted in parents' education," they concluded. "Increasing educational opportunities may break the intergenerational transmission of low status and poor mental health."

Quesnel-Vallée noted that the association may also be due to the fact that people with more education tend to have children who also attain a higher level of education, and better paying jobs.

"What this means is that the whole process of climbing up the social ladder that is rooted in a parent's education is a crucial pathway for the mental health of adult children."

The researchers hope these findings will influence policies aimed at increasing educational opportunities for all, regardless of socioeconomic status. The findings were published in the January 2012 issue of Social Science & Medicine.

Photo: Amélie Quesnel-Vallée, provided courtesy of McGill University.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 1, 2012
Last Updated:
February 1, 2012