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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Maternal Depression, Parenting, and Youth Depressive Symptoms: Mediation and Moderation in a Short-Term Longitudinal Study.

  • Author(s): Olino, Thomas M
  • McMakin, Dana L
  • Nicely, Terri A
  • Forbes, Erika E
  • Dahl, Ronald E
  • Silk, Jennifer S
  • et al.

Although multiple studies find that offspring of depressed mothers are at risk for depressive disorders, there is uncertainty about the specific mechanisms that are at work--particularly with respect to modifiable factors that might be targeted for early intervention. The present work examines that parenting behaviors may operate as mediators, moderators, or independent influences on the development of youth depressive symptoms. One hundred one mothers and their early adolescent children participated in positive and negative interaction tasks. Maternal and youth self-reports of youth depressive symptoms were collected at baseline, 9-month, and 18-month assessments. Maternal history of depression was significantly associated with maternal-reported, but not youth self-reported, depressive symptomatology. Maternal positive and negative interaction behaviors in positive contexts were associated with higher youth self-reported depressive symptoms. Maternal positive interaction behaviors in positive contexts and maternal negative interactive behaviors in conflict contexts were associated with higher youth self-reported depressive symptoms. We found no evidence for maternal interaction behaviors serving as a mediator and little evidence of maternal interaction behaviors serving as a moderator of the relationship between maternal and offspring depression. Low maternal positive engagement tended to be more consistently associated with maternal- and self-reported youth depressive symptoms. The present findings suggest that characteristics of mother-child interactions that are associated with youth depressive symptomatology are pertinent to youth with and without a mother with a history of depression.

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