tivity disorder (ADHD), Gerdes et al. (2007) found that the association of maternal depressive symptoms and lax parenting was mediated by maternal locus of control and maternal parenting stress, and the relation between maternal depressive symptoms and harsh, overreactive parenting was mediated by maternal parenting stress and maternal self-esteem. That is, beliefs about control over events in one’s life, perceived parenting stress, and self-esteem explained at least part of the association between high symptom levels in mothers and their parenting approaches.
Similarly, many factors are likely to moderate the relationship between depressive symptoms and parenting behaviors, although few studies have provided direct tests. General systems and social ecological models (Bronfenbrenner, 1980) suggest that a model to explain associations between depression and parenting must include potential influences beyond the individuals involved. Mothers, including mothers experiencing depression, are embedded in systems that have the capacity to enhance or disrupt their responsiveness to their infants. Theory suggests that social support networks may operate by encouraging and modeling parenting skills (Bronfrenbrenner, 1979) or by serving as a resource for alternate child care, thereby minimizing the negative impact of stress on parenting (Cohen and McKay, 1984). Similarly, stress has been identified as a major determinant of qualities of parenting (Belsky and Jaffee, 2006). In studies of general populations samples of parents (not depressed parents), the effect of stress on parenting has been found to be contingent on social support (Crockenberg, 1981; Cutrona, 1984; Goldstein, Diener, and Mangelsdorf, 1996). Specifically, both stress and social support were found to significantly predict maternal attitudes and interactive behavior. Mothers with high stress were found to be less positive, while mothers with high social support were found to be more positive.
Furthermore, social support has been found to moderate the effects of stress on maternal behavior (Crnic et al., 1983). For example, in a study of low-income African American mothers, although depression levels were not specified, mothers with larger support networks tended to be more responsive during interactions with their child (Burchinal, Follmer, and Bryant, 1996). The study also investigated the influence of structure on the effect of social support, finding that the source (father or grandmother) of social support through co-residence was associated with maternal responsiveness. Among the few studies that considered the role of stress and social support in associations between depression and parenting, the large-scale study by Radke-Yarrow (1998) found that, over time, the effects of mothers’ affectively symptomatic behaviors on the quality of the mother-child relationship were moderated by levels of family stress.
Not only are qualities of parenting stressful for children of depressed parents, but also such children are exposed to a greater level of contextual