. "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
adolescents to blame themselves for negative outcomes and less likely to recall positive self-descriptive adjectives (Hammen and Brennan, 2001; Jaenicke et al., 1987).
Stress and Coping
Of particular concern is a pattern of children of depressed mothers (current or past depression) being more reactive cognitively (e.g., being more likely to think pessimistically) when exposed to failure (Murray et al., 2001; Taylor and Ingram, 1999).
They found, for example, that associations between adolescents’ reports of parental stress and parents’ reports of adolescents’ anxiety/depressive symptoms were related to adolescents’ self-reported use of secondary control engagement coping and adolescents’ stress reactivity (Jaser et al., 2005, 2008; Langrock et al., 2002). Specifically, increased levels of parent-child stress due to parental withdrawal and parental intrusiveness were associated with higher levels of stress reactivity in children (e.g., heightened emotional and physiological arousal, intrusive thoughts, rumination). Conversely, children’s use of coping strategies that involve acceptance of their parents’ depression and efforts to reappraise it in more positive ways was related to lower levels of anxiety and depression in children of depressed parents. These findings suggest that teaching children of depressed parents to use more effective coping strategies may be an important target for preventive interventions (Compas et al., 2002).
Beardslee and colleagues have published several papers on this topic, going back several decades, which have informed understanding of the range of functioning in children and adolescents whose parents (mothers and/or fathers) have been depressed. They have found, essentially, that children of depressed mothers vary in their adaptive functioning, and those with more adaptive functioning function better. For example, more flexible approaches to coping and more situationally appropriate strategies are associated with better outcomes (a moderator relationship) (Beardslee, Schultz, and Selman, 1987; Carbonell, Reinherz, and Beardslee, 2005). Results from other studies by Beardslee and colleagues suggest that children may be protected by how they perceive and respond to depression in their parents (Beardslee and Podorefsky, 1988; Solantaus-Simula, Punamaki, and Beardslee, 2002a, 2002b). Specifically, youth who were resilient in the face of parental depression understood that their parents were ill and that they were not to blame for the illness.
Findings from intervention studies in Beardslee’s randomized trials are also tests of the role of these constructs in associations between depression in parents and children’s well-being (Beardslee et al., 2003, 2008). The concept of understanding on children’s part was operationalized to be un-