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20-08-2015 | Original Paper | Uitgave 3/2016

Journal of Child and Family Studies 3/2016

Bidirectional Effects of Positive Affect, Warmth, and Interactions Between Mothers With and Without Symptoms of Depression and Their Toddlers

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 3/2016
Alexandra C. Hummel, Elizabeth J. Kiel, Silvija Zvirblyte


Maternal depression has negative implications for parenting and child outcomes, but it is also important to understand the daily transactional interactions that occur between mothers varying in symptoms of depression and their children. The current study aimed to examine immediate bidirectional effects between maternal warmth and positive affect and toddler affect in a sample of mothers varying in symptoms of depression. Ninety-one mothers and their 24-month-old toddlers completed a laboratory free-play/clean-up task. Mothers rated their symptoms of depression using the CES-D, and maternal warmth and positive affect and toddler positive and negative affect were observationally coded from a free-play and clean-up laboratory task. Sequential analyses indicated that mothers with no or mild symptoms of depression exhibited mutual positive affect with their children, but mothers with more severe symptoms of depression did not. Mothers with higher symptoms of depression displayed a decrease in warmth concurrent with toddlers’ positive affect. Further, unlike dyads in which mothers had higher symptoms of depression, dyads of mothers with lower symptoms appeared to exhibit some covariation in positive affect across the episode. These results provide evidence that even in non-clinical samples, affective manifestations of mothers’ subthreshold levels of depression may have negative immediate effects on toddlers’ emotions, and that mothers without symptoms of depression may have more reciprocal affective exchanges with their toddlers.

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