. "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
to be associated with depression are behaviors related to the health and well-being of children. For example, a community study of 400 children entering kindergarten in New York (Kavanaugh et al., 2006) reported that mothers with high levels of depressive symptoms were less likely to take their children for dental care (odds ratio = 2.6), read to their children less (odds ratio = 2.6), and were less consistent in their use of discipline (odds ratio = 2.3) than mothers with normal results from depression screening. This theme is also reflected in reports of elevated depressive symptoms in mothers being associated with less use of well-child care by age 12 months, more infant hospitalization, less back positioning for sleeping, and fewer up-to-date vaccinations (Chung et al., 2004; Mandl et al., 1999; Minkovitz et al., 2005).
Radke-Yarrow et al. (1993) conducted a landmark study of unipolar and bipolar depressed mothers and controls and their children, all of whom were under age 8 at study entry. To briefly summarize the findings, they found depression in a mother to be associated with (1) problems in functioning in essential and routine roles, (2) failure to help the child achieve self-regulation, (3) anger and irritability or enmeshing dependency or both, (4) less consistency of mother-child relationship over time, and (5) escalating negative qualities of interaction over time. Radke-Yarrow et al. concluded that psychopathology in a child was especially promoted when the mother’s behavior interfered with the child’s fundamental tasks, such as self-regulation; long-term dependable security, autonomy, and dependency needs; and positive attitudes about self.
Middle Childhood and Adolescence
Although direct observations of parent-child interactions in samples of depressed parents with older children and adolescents have been less common than with infants and younger children, a few studies have tested and found support for the hypothesis that depression is associated with parenting of adolescents and that the affected parent-child interactions may represent a crucial pathway for parental depression to the development of psychological problems in the adolescents (e.g., Gordon et al., 1989; Simons et al., 1993).
Jaser and colleagues (2008) examined the associations between maternal mood and parenting behaviors through direct observations of mothers with and without a history of depression interacting with their adolescent children during a positive and a negative task. Mothers with a history of depression were significantly more likely to exhibit sad affect and disengaged and antisocial parenting behaviors than mothers with no history of depression across the two interactions, but these differences were largely accounted for by mothers’ current depressive symptoms. Mothers’ self-reports