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14-06-2016 | Original Paper | Uitgave 10/2016

Journal of Child and Family Studies 10/2016

The Role of Parental Depressive Symptoms in Predicting Dysfunctional Discipline Among Parents at High-Risk for Child Maltreatment

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 10/2016
Amanda Venta, Luis Velez, Jason Lau


Parental depressive symptoms are an important public health concern because they have been linked, in numerous previous studies, to negative parenting behaviors including dysfunctional discipline and child abuse and neglect. Taking this into consideration, parental depressive symptoms warrant particular attention among families with child maltreatment allegations—a group at high risk of dysfunctional discipline and future physical abuse. The current study sought to examine relations between parental depressive symptoms and dysfunctional discipline in an ethnically diverse sample of 234 families who were referred for psychological services due to concerns of child maltreatment. Referrals were made by school, medical, or child welfare personnel. 59.8 % of children were male and the average age was 7.05 years. Results indicated that parental depressive symptoms were significantly correlated with dysfunctional discipline including laxness, over-reactivity, and hostility. However, all three relations lost statistical significance after controlling for parental stress. The findings of this study suggest that well-documented relations between parental depression and negative parenting behavior may be driven by elevated parental stress rather than reflecting risks uniquely associated with depressive pathology.

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