A Step Beyond Maternal Depression and Child Behavior Problems: The Role of Mother–Child Aggression
Date of this Version
Previous researchers have identified problematic mother–child interaction patterns as a potential pathway through which maternal depressive symptoms impact child behavior problems, but could not establish the temporal precedence of these associations. This longitudinal study investigated mother–child aggression as a mechanism in the association between maternal depressive symptoms that occurred during infancy and subsequent child behavior problems among high-risk families. Two hundred thirty-four socioeconomically disadvantaged families were recruited from neighborhoods with high rates of family violence. During infancy (12–18 months), early childhood (4 years), and middle childhood (6 years), mothers reported their current depressive symptoms and use of psychological and physical aggression with their child. During early and middle childhood, mothers reported their children’s behavior problems. Using path analyses, a temporal process was identified in which mother–child aggression during early childhood mediated the association between maternal depressive symptoms during infancy and higher levels of externalizing behavior problems during middle childhood. Mother–-child aggression did not mediate the association between maternal depressive symptoms during infancy and higher levels of internalizing behavior problems during middle childhood. Early maternal depressive symptoms that occur during infancy are important risk factors for subsequent mother–child aggression, which, in turn, contributes to more child externalizing behavior problems. Therefore, screening mothers for depressive symptoms and providing intervention and prevention services to improve mother–child interactions may be crucial to preventing the exacerbation of externalizing behavior problems. Additional research is needed to identify pathways to child internalizing behavior problems.
Villodas, Miguel T.; Bagner, Daniel M.; and Thompson, Richard, "A Step Beyond Maternal Depression and Child Behavior Problems: The Role of Mother–Child Aggression" (2018). Department of Psychology. 46.