. "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
fected, would be of concern regarding the potential for later development of psychopathology.
Not surprisingly, much attention has focused on the likelihood of children of depressed parents becoming depressed themselves. Both theory about the mechanisms whereby maternal depression might contribute to depression in children (Goodman and Gotlib, 1999) and about the developmental pathways to the emergence of depression in children (Cicchetti and Toth, 1998) point to the importance of knowing more about associations between maternal depression and the emergence of depression in children and adolescents. Many of the studies of children of depressed parents have therefore examined associations between depression in parents and depression-related outcomes in their children, including depressive symptom levels and rates of depressive disorder. Some researchers have broadened the construct to internalizing disorders or problems in children, given that anxiety disorders are the most frequent co-occurring disorders in both clinical (Compas et al., 1997) and community samples (Lewinsohn et al., 1991) and that many researchers rely on symptom checklists that yield scores on internalizing problems as a broadband construct.
Among other outcomes associated with depression in parents, researchers have also been interested in externalizing disorders, since elevated rates of conduct problems have been noted since the earliest studies of children of depressed parents (e.g., Welner et al., 1977). From a theoretical perspective, externalizing disorders in children with depressed parents are interesting because they may reflect problems with dysregulated aggression (Radke-Yarrow et al., 1992), a distinct pattern of inherited vulnerability perhaps related to behavior disorders (e.g., alcoholism, substance abuse, antisocial personality disorders) in first-degree relatives (Kovacs et al., 1997; Williamson et al., 1995). Alternatively, externalizing problems in children may reflect particular interactions among genes and cognitive, affective, interpersonal, and other biological systems that lead to the emergence of externalizing rather than (or co-occurring with) internalizing disorders.
Although much of the literature has focused on psychopathology as outcomes for children with depressed mothers, a developmental psychopathology perspective requires an expanded definition of outcomes to also include competence or limits on ability to achieve typical development in the full range of affective/emotional, cognitive, and social/interpersonal functioning.
A separate, important aspect of functioning that is essential to understand in children of depressed parents is temperament or behavioral tendencies. Difficulties in temperament associated with depression in parents could be observed, for example, through infants’ behavioral tendencies toward less interest in and active exploration of their environment and novel stimuli, poorer organizational capabilities, and less soothability relative to