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27-10-2015 | Original Paper | Uitgave 4/2016 Open Access

Journal of Child and Family Studies 4/2016

Does Mother–Child Interaction Mediate the Relation Between Maternal Depressive Symptoms and Children’s Mental Health Problems?

Tijdschrift:
Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 4/2016
Auteurs:
Marleen M. E. M. van Doorn, Rowella C. W. M. Kuijpers, Anna Lichtwarck-Aschoff, Denise Bodden, Mélou Jansen, Isabela Granic

Abstract

The relation between maternal depressive symptoms and children’s mental health problems has been well established. However, prior studies have predominantly focused on maternal reports of children’s mental health problems and on parenting behavior, as a broad and unilateral concept. This cross-sectional study examined specific observed mother–child interaction behaviors through which maternal depressive symptoms are assumed to affect children’s mental health problems. We expected higher rates of maternal depressive symptoms to predict higher rates of children’s mental health problems, and we expected this relation to be mediated by low maternal warmth and high maternal psychological control. The sample consisted of 111 mother–child dyads referred for treatment. The mother–child interaction behaviors were coded according to the observed mother–child interaction tasks. Children’s mental health problems were assessed using both maternal reports and children’s self-reports. As expected, the results showed that maternal depressive symptoms were strongly related to maternal reports of children’s internalizing and externalizing mental health problems. Surprisingly, maternal depressive symptoms were unrelated to children’s self-reported depressive symptoms. Furthermore, mother–child interactions did not mediate the relation between maternal depressive symptoms and child mental health problems. Maternal depressive symptoms were associated with high maternal warmth, and high psychological control was associated with high levels of mother-reported externalizing mental health problems in children. These results partially replicate previous findings but add to these by using observational methods and multi-informant data. The importance of using a multi-informant and multi-method approach in assessing children’s mental health problems in clinical practice and research are discussed.

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