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Master of Science (M.S.)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
Parenting, Depression, Maternal, Longitudinal, Behavioral Problems, Hierarchical Linear Modeling
Depression in mothers is an important risk factor for behavioral and emotional problems in their children (Elgar, McGrath, Waschbusch, Stewart, & Curtis 2004), and disrupted parenting is thought to mediate the influences of maternal depression on children. This 4-year longitudinal study examined whether mothers’ depression predicted parenting of children with behavioral problems across the preschool years. This study attempted to tease apart the correlates of enduring, chronic maternal depressive symptoms from those of transient depressive symptoms on parenting during the preschool years. In particular, it sought to predict both changes in parenting across the preschool years as well as to predict parenting practices as parents and children emerge from the preschool years. Participants were 199 mothers of 3-year-old children, with behavior problems who completed measures of depression and parenting yearly until children were 6 years old. Mothers with higher average depressive symptoms across the preschool years reported more overreactivity and laxness, and showed less warmth when their children were 6 years old. These mothers were also more likely to increase their self-reported overreactivity over time. Increases in depression were associated with increases in overreactivity and laxness, but not in warmth. These results provide stronger evidence than previous cross-sectional studies for a causal relation between depression and parenting, and point to the importance of providing adequate treatment and support to depressed mothers of preschool children.