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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Maternal Depression and Child Behavior Problems Among Children With or Without Intellectual Disability: Longitudinal and Transactional Relationships

  • Author(s): Zeedyk, Sasha Marie
  • Advisor(s): Blacher, Jan
  • et al.

Few studies exist tracing maternal depressive symptoms longitudinally. This study identifies trajectories of depressive symptoms among mothers of children with or without intellectual disability (ID), including correlates of maternal depressive symptoms longitudinally and the transactional/bi-directional relationship between child behavior problems and maternal depressive symptoms across eight time points (child ages 3-9 and 13). Results of fitting a linear growth model to the data from child ages 3-9 indicated that child behavior problems, low income, high financial stress attributable to the child, and low dispositional optimism were all significant predictors of initial maternal depressive symptoms. Child behavior problems were a significant predictor of the changes in depressive symptoms over time, predicting above and beyond the child’s disability status. When looking from late childhood into early adolescence, hierarchical linear regression analysis revealed maternal depressive symptoms at child age 9 and perceived financial stress to significantly relate to maternal depressive symptoms at child age 13. Results of fitting the data to a cross-lag panel model indicated that from early to late childhood, total child behavior problems significantly contributed to the depression symptoms experienced by mothers at subsequent time points. Yet, the direction of effects shifted from late childhood into early adolescence, with mothers’ depressive symptoms in late childhood significantly predicting total behavior problems in early adolescence. Slight differences were observed in cross-lagged analyses examining child externalizing and internalizing separately. Implications for practice and future research directions are discussed.

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