(e.g., negative affect, coercive, hostile behavior; mean d = 0.40), disengaged (withdrawn) parenting (e.g., neutral affect, ignoring; mean d = 0.29), and a small but significant adverse association with positive parenting behaviors (engaging a child in a pleasant or affectionate way; mean d = 0.16). These studies reflect the significance of disrupted parenting when a parent suffers from depression and underscore the usefulness of direct observations of parent-child interactions in these families. The authors conclude that depressed mothers who are preoccupied are more likely to become angry when children misbehave or make normal demands on them. Lovejoy et al. (2000) argue that the “findings support the need for intervention with depressed mothers, as their parenting behaviors are a component of the risk associated with living with a depressed mother” (p. 588). Despite the strength of findings linking depression and parenting, the analyses were limited by the literature’s focus on younger children. Only 17 percent of the studies in the meta-analysis (n = 8) included children ages 6 or older, and none of the studies focused specifically on the high-risk period of early adolescence, a developmental period associated with increasing rates of depression and increasingly stressful parent-child interactions (Hankin and Abramson, 2001). A few more recent studies, however, have similarly supported links between depression and parenting even among parents of adolescents, as reviewed later in this chapter.
Parenting practices are also of concern because they are associated with depression not only during periods of elevated symptom levels or during episodes that meet diagnostic criteria for depression but also when parents who have experienced depression may be relatively symptom free. Negative parenting has been found to persist even after controlling for the presence of major depressive disorder, suggesting that depressed parents continue to parent poorly following a depressive episode (Seifer et al., 2001).
Although it is not common to consider that one engages in parenting behaviors during pregnancy, in fact there are multiple behaviors associated with depression during pregnancy that are relevant to children’s outcomes. These include obtaining prenatal care early and regularly, engaging in healthy patterns of eating (weight gain) and sleeping, and avoiding drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. Both the symptoms of depression, such as anhedonia (lack of pleasure in everyday experiences) and low energy, and the often correlated stressors may contribute to pregnant women neglecting their physical health and to engaging in behaviors that might provide immediate relief from distress, such as smoking, drinking, or unhealthy eating. Also, pregnant women with depression-related low energy or lethargy may