My daughter experienced severe postpartum depression after her first birth. She took part in a PPD program and with treatment, she improved.

Her son, now 9, has a history is extremely aggressive and destructive tantrums that have continued throughout his life. His father, possibly to make up for lack of maternal connection when he was an infant, and partly due to his personality, has provided few limits and buys lots of toys even though their debt is astronomical.

This 9 year-old's behavior has been excused at every stage. My daughter, a social worker, says he's got anxiety, and I believe her as I see signs of childhood anxiety, but I worry about his lack of self-control and aggression toward his little sister, now 5, who has been hearing his tantrums and subject to his verbal abuse and depersonalization since she was born.

I worry about how close he is to pre-adolescence and wonder if his behavior might be linked to his mother's initial rejection of him though she breastfed him and took care of all his needs, but still was depressed and had a rough time.

Is there research about links to PPD and outcomes for children in terms of behavior as they grow?

How about effective treatment options?

As an advanced social worker, my daughter thinks she has all the answers but seems to miss what's happening in her own home. I've not ever meddled or given advice, but I have background in areas that ground me in knowledge also. I've been supportive, have assisted in caring for my grandchildren whenever asked and have respected the practices of their parents, etc.

Still, I feel very worried about perils facing my grandson in terms of his long-term well-being and ability to be in close relationships as he gets older. I'll add that he is an exceptionally intelligent and interesting child and we've enjoyed caring for him greatly, tantrums aside.

  • I do not have an answer for this. I am a behaviourist and could perhaps help with ideas on specifics. However, without meeting the family that is almost impossible. If they are unwilling to get professional help, you could go yourself. Now you can't make a difference all on your own, but you might be in a better position to model a different method. Tread carefully. This family needs your support.
    – WRX
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 14:54
  • 1
    Post partum depression is very common ~15% of the population get it. Attachment disorders are no where near as common as that. It's possible the child has another disorder or could just be a little jerk.
    – McCann
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 17:42

1 Answer 1


If possible, take the child to a psychiatrist. Nobody but a psychiatrist can make an adequate diagnosis or give the latest information regarding statistics. Google searches will not give adequate and consistent informatics. Access to publications like The American Journal of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychiatry News would give evidence-based data, but few other than a psychiatrist would be nerdy enough to do such a thing.

As for the connection between PPD and childhood behavioral problems, the link is definitely there, but not terribly statistically significant. It's a shoulder-shrug situation, though. Such knowledge doesn't affect the current dilemma. The etiology, nature vs. nurture, is purely hypothetical at this point.

Have behavioral methods been tried, like star charts, point systems, or other positive reinforcers?

Are there behavioral problems outside of the home? What do his teachers say?

Does he get it when he does wrong? Does he apologize? Does he show remorse? Does he abuse animals (this is a bad sign--the most consistent in terms of childhood conduct disorder)

Very few parents are humble enough to admit they might be doing something wrong. However, family therapy with a Masters-level therapist can be very useful to unravel what's going on.

Failure to treat mental illness in childhood, as expected, increases the risk several-fold of things like drug abuse, legal problems, and psychiatric hospitalizations as adults. His behavior might be within "normal" limits. But it's like if your kid had a tooth ache, wouldn't you take him to the dentist? Or would you wait until he was screaming his head off and have to take him to the emergency room.

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