Towards a family process model of maternal and paternal depressive symptoms: exploring multiple relations with child and family functioning

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BackgroundResearch has focused on maternal dysphoria and child adjustment. However, family process models indicate gaps in the study of paternal dysphoria, broader family functioning, and diverse child outcomes.MethodA community sample of 235 mothers and fathers of kindergarten children completed measures of depressive symptoms, family functioning and child adjustment. Teachers also provided measures of child adjustment.ResultsSupportive of pervasive effects even in a community sample, increased parental depressive symptomatology was related to increased marital conflict, insecure marital attachment, less parental warmth, more psychological control in parenting, and multiple child problems. Child gender moderated child outcomes differently for paternal and maternal dysphoria. Marital relations, but not parenting, mediated child outcomes.ConclusionsMarital problems may be especially reactive to parental depressive symptomatology, so that mediational processes affecting child functioning become evident even in family contexts of relatively low risk.

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