Challenges in Evaluating the Literature

  • Researchers face multiple methodological challenges studying depression in parents and its effects on parenting practices and child health outcomes that need to be addressed in order to provide recommendations for the development of future research, interventions, and policy—including conceptual frameworks, sampling designs, data analysis, and integration of research findings across literatures.

In this chapter, the committee describes their approach to the literature on the effects of parental depression on parenting practices and child outcomes and its evaluation. The chapter is organized in three sections, relating to the challenges that researchers face in confronting the problem of parental depression, the wide range of issues that we considered relevant, and standards of evidence and methodological issues that are important to keep in mind in reading this report. Some topics are addressed in more than one section, but they are focused on different aspects of the topic. For example, in the section on research challenges, we show that a conceptual framework relating to the effects of parental depression on families should be guided by a developmental psychopathology perspective. Later, in the section on research standards, we mention what the literature has shown in this regard and that research relating to any psychopathology should address questions “across generations and across time” (Hinshaw, 2008).

The type of evidence and criteria used to judge the importance of that evidence vary from area to area. This chapter does not attempt to explicitly summarize the specific criteria used for the evaluation of the evidence in each area, but instead offers a guideline of the general areas of interest and inquiry that the committee used when the committee searched and evaluated the literature. For example, studies of screening for parental depression are different from studies of treatment and intervention, and these are different from studies of prevention programs. These are also different from inquiries relating to changes in policy at the macro level or the available studies on the effects of parental depression. Thus, in this overview on standards of evidence and methodology, we present general guidelines that the reader should apply when appropriate in the subsequent chapters. Recommendations based on the evaluation of the evidence in each area are presented.

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