the relationship between depression in parents and outcomes in children. Tests of moderators of the associations between depression in parents and outcomes in children reveal the characteristics of parents and children who are more or less likely to have adverse outcomes. Moderators that have been examined include child characteristics (e.g., age, sex), characteristics of the parent with depression (e.g., severity, chronicity), and characteristics of the coparent (e.g., mental health and involvement of fathers when mother is depressed), and broader social context qualities (e.g., poverty).
Second, we reviewed the literature on effects of depression in parents on their parenting practices. This literature was of particular interest for two reasons: the well-known reliance of children on good-quality parenting for healthy child development (Collins et al., 2003) and a long-standing understanding that depression is likely to interfere with good-quality parenting (Weissman and Paykel, 1974). Thus, we were particularly interested in research on the mediational role of parenting in the association between depression in parents and adverse outcomes in children. By mediating role, we mean the extent to which depression has negative influences on parenting and, subsequently, the extent to which those changes in parenting account for associations between parents’ depression and the outcomes in the children. In general, a mediating variable is one that at least partly explains the association between one variable and another. Thus, we examined evidence that the associations researchers have found between depression in parents and adverse outcomes in children are at least partially explained by parenting practices.
Third, to take into consideration other possible mediators of associations between parents’ depression and child outcomes, in addition to parenting practices, we noted studies of the effects of depression in parents on the children that also considered the potential role of marital relationships. However, it was beyond the scope of this report to review the literature on effects of depression in parents on their relationships with their spouse/partner, extended family relationships, or work, although we acknowledge that these are likely important aspects of a broad model of how depression in parents is related to the outcomes in their children.
Fourth, we reviewed evidence for the effectiveness of screening, prevention, and treatment of depression in the parent. In these literatures, we searched broadly for evidence of effectiveness of a range of interventions designed to address the effects of parental depression on children.
We now present an overview of the many methodological challenges faced by researchers studying parental depression and its effects on parenting practices and child outcomes. We focus particularly on issues that