that the relationship between current maternal depressive symptoms and adolescents’ internalizing and externalizing problems were mediated by the observed sadness in mothers’ interactions with their children. Similarly, in one of the few studies that included mothers and fathers, Du Rocher Schudlich and Cummings (2007) found that disrupted parenting (e.g., parental rejection, lax control, and psychological control) by mothers and fathers partially mediated the relations between maternal and paternal dysphoric mood and children’s internalizing and externalizing problems. As described previously, a large-scale study recently found support for parental behaviors (nurturance, rejection, and monitoring) as mediators in the association between depressive symptoms in both mothers and fathers and 10- to 15-year-olds’ emergence of emotional and behavioral problems (Elgar et al., 2007). These findings are strongly supportive of interventions to improve the quality of parenting in order to reduce the effects of parental depression on children.

Maternal Depression Increases Risk for Punitive Parenting and Child Abuse

As much as one needs to be concerned about depression in parents being associated with negative parenting qualities such as rejection, harshness, and intrusiveness, it is of even greater concern that researchers find depression in parents to be associated with maltreatment of children. Much of the latter work has focused on the pathway from maternal history of child maltreatment to depression in the women and, ultimately, maltreatment of the children. Numerous studies demonstrate that a maternal history of childhood maltreatment significantly increases a woman’s risk for major depression, substance abuse, and domestic violence (Edwards et al., 2003; Kendler et al., 2000; Lang et al., 2004; MacMillan et al., 2001; Spatz Widom, DuMont, and Czaja, 2007; Springer et al., 2007; Whitfield et al., 2003). These outcomes have, in turn, been clinically implicated as increasing the risk for subsequent maltreatment of the woman’s children, either by the woman herself or through her association with a perpetrating partner (Collishaw et al., 2007; Hazen et al., 2006; Koverola et al., 2005; Thompson, Kingree, and Desai, 2004). Several studies have sought to empirically determine the relative contributions of maternal child abuse history and the longer term outcomes of maternal depression, substance abuse, and domestic violence to increased risk for maltreatment of children. Statistical models have focused on a variety of proxy outcome measures, including measures of parenting attitudes, punitive parenting, parental stress, or child abuse potential as quantified by the Child Abuse Potential Inventory (CAP), a 160-item measure of potential for physical abuse.

Using path analysis with a sample of 265 predominately minority

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement