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21-09-2019 | Original Paper

Caregiver Depressive Symptoms Associated with Behavioral and Emotional Problems in Preschoolers

Journal of Child and Family Studies
Elise M. Fallucco, Peggy Greco, Petra Aldridge, Emma Robertson Blackmore
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10826-019-01573-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.



Depressive symptoms in parents are associated with increased risk for behavioral and emotional problems (BEP) in preschool-aged children. It is unclear if particular symptoms of child BEP are associated with parental depression. This study describes the prevalence of (1) self-reported depressive symptoms in parents and (2) BEP in children ages 3–5 years, both measured during pediatric well-visits. It also examines the relationship between parental depressive symptoms and BEP in preschool-aged children in primary care.


Caregivers (n = 2645) accompanying children ages 3–5 years old for well-visits completed the Early Childhood Screening Assessment (ECSA), a tool which assesses for child BEP and parental depressive symptoms. Spearman’s rho was used to examine correlations. Logistic regression was used to predict the dichotomous outcome of depressive symptoms among caregivers based on ECSA item responses covarying for caregiver type and child age, gender and race.


Screening indicated that 3.1% (n = 82) of caregivers reported parental depressive symptoms and 12.5% (n = 331) of children had a positive screen for BEP. One out of 2 children (56.1%) of caregivers with depressive symptoms had positive BEP screens compared to approximately 1 in 10 (11.1%) children of caregivers without depressive symptoms (p < 0.0001).


There was a significant relationship between caregiver depressive symptoms and child BEP symptoms, highlighting the importance of screening for both constructs. Early identification and treatment of both parental depressive symptoms and child BEP allows for appropriate referral and treatment that may mitigate adverse outcomes and promote optimal child development.

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