Category: Parenting / Families
The way children cope with stress is an important source of resilience for children of depressed parents. Adapting to stress (i.e., secondary control coping) predicts fewer psychological symptoms, and so understanding factors that contribute to the development of coping is critical (Compas et al., 2010). Parenting is one factor that has been shown to affect coping (Watson et al., 2014). Depression can influence parenting behavior; depressed parents are more intrusive or withdrawn when interacting with their children, especially when symptoms are current (Lovejoy et al., 2000). The present study examined parenting behaviors as moderators of the relation between parent depressive symptoms and child secondary control coping skills.
The present analyses include 162 parents with a history of Major Depressive Disorder during the lifetime of their child and their children (9 to 15 years). Parents provided self-reports of current depressive symptoms on the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI–II; Beck et al., 1996). Parenting behaviors were assessed through child report (Alabama Parenting Questionnaire, Involvement Scale; Frick, 1991) and coding of parental intrusive (composite of hostility, intrusiveness, and guilty coercion codes) and withdrawn (composite of neglect-distancing and reverse coded child monitoring, quality time, and listener responsiveness codes) behaviors using the Iowa Family Interaction Rating Scales (Melby et al., 1998). Children reported their own secondary control coping (e.g., acceptance, cognitive reappraisal) on the Responses to Stress Questionnaire (Connor-Smith et al., 2000).
Findings indicate that parenting behaviors moderated the relation between parent depressive symptoms and child secondary control coping. This effect was replicated using both child report and observations of parenting behavior. In regression analyses, involved parenting (β = -.0001, p < .05) moderated the relation between BDI and secondary control coping, F(3, 158) = 8.48, p < .001, R² = .14; intrusive parenting (β = .0001, p < .05) moderated the relation between BDI and secondary control coping, F(3, 161) = 5.18, p < .01, R² = .09; and withdrawn parenting (β = .0001, p < .05) moderated the relation between BDI and secondary control coping, F(3, 161) = 4.35, p < .01, R² = .08. When parental depressive symptoms were low, engaged parenting (high involved, low withdrawn, low intrusive) related to more, and unengaged parenting (low involved, high withdrawn, high intrusive) related to less, secondary control coping. When parental depressive symptoms were high, parenting had no effect on secondary coping.
Parenting has been identified as a mechanism by which children’s coping strategies develop (Watson et al., 2014), but in the present study, the association was only found when current parental depressive symptoms were low. Findings suggest the importance of interventions addressing both parenting skills and parental depression as part of efforts to increase adaptive coping skills in children.
Lauren Henry– Graduate Student, Vanderbilt University
Kelly Watson– Vanderbilt University
Alexandra Bettis– Graduate Student, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee
Meredith Gruhn– Student, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee
Rex Forehand– University of Vermont
Bruce Compas– Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Psychology and Human Development, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee