Caregiver Depression and Child Behaviour Problems: A Longitudinal Mixed Effects Approach

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Child and Family Social Work

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Caregiver mental health has a powerful influence on child well‐being. Both maternal depression and paternal depression predict behaviour problems in young children. However, little is known about the nature of this link over time. The present study leveraged a large sample of at‐risk families to examine the impact of maternal and paternal depression on trajectories of child behaviour from age 3 to 15. Data came from the At‐Home substudy of the Fragile Families and Child Well‐Being Study, which observed a cohort of children born 1998–2000 in 20 large American cities (N = 1,090). Multiple imputation by chained equations addressed missing data to maximize available information without biasing models. Linear mixed effects models tested the association between caregiver depression and child behaviour over 12 years; interaction models tested whether this association changed as children transitioned into adolescence. Results showed caregiver depression is related with increases in both child internalizing and externalizing problems, and these relationships strengthened over time. Findings inform risk trajectories of distinct behavioural problems, shedding light on the development of child psychopathology and highlighting opportunities for intervention.


Child behaviour; Longitudinal analysis; Parental depression


Child Psychology | Family, Life Course, and Society | Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling | Mental Disorders



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