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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Parent Psychopathology and Parent-Child Conflict Interact to Predict Children’s Anxiety but Not Depression

  • Author(s): Gomez, Valerie
  • Quiñones-Camacho, Laura
  • Davis, Elizabeth
  • et al.

Correlates of child psychology have been studied for decades (Ollendick & Herson, 1989). Researchhas shown that parental psychopathology can influence child psychopathology through a combinationof familial and environmental factors (Biedel & Turner, 1997; Burstein et al., 2010). Parent-childinteractions have also been found to relate to child psychopathology (Donenberg & Weisz, 1997). Apossible explanation for these relations is that the behavior of parents experiencing psychopathologysymptoms differs from parents not facing these difficulties, like displaying more hostile behaviortowards their offspring (Burstein et al., 2010). The present study examines the interaction of parentpsychopathology and parent-child conflict during a stressful task to see if conflict moderated therelation between parents’ and children’s psychopathology. We studied whether the relation betweenparent and child symptoms would be stronger for dyads characterized by conflict. 184 children aged3 to 11 (91 boys and 93 girls) visited the lab. Parents completed questionnaires to measure theirdepression and anxiety symptoms, as well as the child’s anxiety and depressive symptoms. Theparent and the child also participated in a Lego task where instances of child conflict were observed.Results showed that parent anxiety interacted with parent-child conflict to predict children’s anxietysymptoms, such that parents’ anxiety predicted children’s anxiety only among dyads characterizedby high levels of conflict. The same was not true for depressive symptoms. The current study expandsresearch about moderators by showing that the link between parent and child psychopathology isqualified by other aspects of the family environment.

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