Category: Parenting / Families

Symposium

Longitudinal Mediation of the Impact of Maternal Depression on Child Internalizing Symptoms by Parenting Behaviors

Saturday, November 18
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom B, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Depression | Anxiety | Parenting
Presentation Type: Symposium

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is highly familial (McGue & Christensen, 2003). Moreover, maternal MDD is more strongly related to internalizing problems in children than is paternal depression (Connell & Goodman, 2002), suggesting a particular need to understand mechanisms underlying the transmission of risk for depressive and anxiety disorders from mothers to their children. In the current study, we examined the potential mediating role of parenting behaviors (i.e., psychological aggression, non-violent discipline, physical assault) in understanding relationships between maternal depression and child internalizing symptoms (i.e., depression and anxiety). We analyzed data from 4,581 mother-child dyads from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a population-based longitudinal study. Data was collected when the child was 3, 5, and 9 years old. Results from cross-lagged panel models indicated bidirectional relationships between maternal depression and child internalizing symptoms over childhood. Mediation analyses suggested that maternal depression led to subsequent increased psychological aggression towards their child, which in turn led to increased child internalizing symptoms. Non-violent discipline and physical assault did not mediate this relationship. However, greater use of non-violent discipline at age 5 among all parents predicted higher child internalizing symptoms at age 9. No parenting behaviors were both predicted by earlier child internalizing symptoms and predictive of subsequent maternal depression. Our results suggest a bi-directional relationship between child and maternal internalizing psychopathology that is partially explained by depressed mothers’ greater use of psychological aggression towards their children. We note that the size of these effects were small, suggesting that the relationship between parent and child psychopathology is likely additionally explained by factors not assessed in the current study. Nonetheless, these results have implications for prevention and intervention strategies targeting child anxiety and depression. We consider the implications of our findings in the context of the diversity of our sample.

Jennie M. Kuckertz

San Diego State University/University of California, San Diego

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Longitudinal Mediation of the Impact of Maternal Depression on Child Internalizing Symptoms by Parenting Behaviors



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