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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Psychology

Year Degree Awarded

2015

Month Degree Awarded

May

First Advisor

David H. Arnold

Second Advisor

Elizabeth A. Harvey

Third Advisor

Lisa A. Keller

Fourth Advisor

Paula Pietromonaco

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology

Abstract

Depression is a common, chronic condition that affects both adults and children and causes significant impairment across a variety of domains. Having a depressed parent puts children at risk for developing depression themselves. While there is considerable research examining the effects of maternal depression, relatively few studies have focused on paternal depression and its relation to child depressive symptoms. Longitudinal studies of paternal depression are especially scarce, and very few studies have examined both paternal and child depressive symptoms over an extended period of time. The present study examined whether and how paternal and child depressive symptoms covaried over a 3-year period using two analytic approaches: one that evaluated whether year-to-year changes in depressive symptoms were related, and another that evaluated whether depressive symptom trajectories over the 3-year period were related. This study also evaluated whether the relationship between fathers’ and children’s depressive symptoms differed depending on children’s gender. Additional analyses examined whether changes in maternal depressive symptoms might account for the associations between fathers’ and children’s depressive symptoms. In both sets of analyses, changes in paternal depression significantly predicted changes in father-reported and mother-reported child depressive symptoms. Findings related to child gender were mixed, and only approached significance. In the analyses that could control for maternal depressive symptom trajectories, only paternal trajectories significantly predicted children’s trajectories over the 3-year period. Results suggest that paternal depression has a uniquely important relationship with children’s depressive symptoms and underscore the importance of identifying and treating depressed fathers.

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