. "4 Associations Between Depression in Parents and Parenting, Child Health, and Child Psychological Functioning." Depression in Parents, Parenting, and Children: Opportunities to Improve Identification, Treatment, and Prevention. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2009.
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Depression in Parents, Parenting, and Children: Opportunities to Improve Identification, Treatment, and Prevention
Parenting practices that do not meet infants’ or children’s needs to sustain healthy development are one of the primary mechanisms through which parental depression exerts its effects on children (Goodman and Gotlib, 1999). As reviewed by Avenevoli and Merikangas (2006), there is evidence to support broad (e.g., stress), specific (e.g., parenting skills), and structural (e.g., divorce) family factors that explain or modify the association between depression in parents and children’s development of depression or other problems. Although more research is needed to determine the effects of specific types of parent behaviors, it is evident that parenting behaviors associated with depression affect children’s adjustment.
Indeed, a few studies have tested and found support for a mediation role of parenting in associations between depression and outcomes in children. For example, in a large, longitudinal, population-based study of Canadian youth ages 10 to 15, children’s reports of both positive parenting behaviors (i.e., nurturance and monitoring) and negative parenting behaviors (i.e., rejection) mediated the relationship between parental depressive symptoms and children’s internalizing (e.g., anxiety, depressive symptoms) and/or externalizing (e.g., aggression, noncompliance) problems (Elgar et al., 2007). Also supporting mediation, Cummings et al. (2008) found that a community sample of 6-year-old children’s representations of their attachment to their parents and of interparental conflict partially mediated the relation between parental depressive symptoms and the children’s externalizing problems that emerged over the following 3 years. Lim, Wood, and Miller (2008), in a study of mothers with depressive symptoms and their children (n = 242, ages 7–17) with asthma symptoms recruited from pediatric emergency departments, also found evidence consistent with negative parenting as a partial mediator of the relation between maternal depressive symptoms and children’s internalizing problems. However, despite the many strengths of this study, the reliance on a cross-sectional design limits conclusions that can be drawn about mediation. In addition to this support for parenting as a mediator, others have found that parenting serves as a moderator of associations between depression in parents and outcomes in children. Among research supportive of moderation is the finding that more positive outcomes in youth with depressed mothers were found among the subset of depressed mothers who used less psychological control, more warmth, and less overinvolvement (Brennan, Le Brocque, and Hammen, 2003).
Researchers have accumulated strong evidence directly linking depression in parents with problematic parenting practices, primarily based on studies using direct observations of parents and children in families of depressed parents. In a meta-analysis of this research, Lovejoy et al. (2000) found significant and moderate effect sizes for the association between both maternal depressive symptoms and disorder and hostile negative parenting