their potential to help explain associations between depression in parents and child functioning.


The studies reveal well-replicated findings on the relation between parental depression and impaired parenting for children from infancy (and even fetal development) through adolescence. The findings from studies with extended theoretical models also show that the relation between depression and parenting is complex and needs to be considered in the context of a larger set of moderators and mediators, especially including other parental characteristics and the role of stress and social support. More research is needed to better understand this process.

Next we turn to the literature that has examined associations between depression in parents and children’s physical and psychological health. Following that review, we return to parenting as we consider the role of parenting as a mediator of associations between depression in parents and aspects of functioning in children.


Researchers have provided a wealth of data on the psychological and physical health of children whose parents have depression. Understandably, much attention has been focused on risk for the development of depression in the children. These findings are reviewed in this section, highlighting representative work. Researchers also expanded the scope of psychological outcomes studied in children of depressed parents to include other aspects of psychopathology, including other internalizing disorders as well as externalizing disorders. Other aspects of psychological functioning, some of which may themselves be developmental precursors, vulnerabilities, or early signs of disorder, are also included in this review. Similarly, physical health-related constructs include data on health or illness as well as children’s receipt of routine health care, safety of the home, and growth. Although a comprehensive review of that literature is beyond the scope of this project, we present representative findings and an overview of the conclusions that can be drawn.

Limitations Stemming from Research Gaps

For each aspect of children’s functioning that we examined in association with depression in parents, we reviewed not only the evidence for associations but also any evidence for moderators and mediators of those associations.

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