Pathways to Adolescent Emotional and Behavioral Problems: An Examination of Maternal Depression and Harsh Parenting

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Child Abuse and Neglect



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© 2020 Elsevier Ltd Background: Maternal depression is linked with a range of child and adolescent outcomes. Prior research suggests adverse consequences for child and youth development, but less is known about the role of adverse parenting in the pathways from maternal depression to adolescent emotional and behavioral problems. Objective: The present study leveraged a large, longitudinal survey of families across the U.S. to investigate whether harsh parenting mediated the links between maternal depression and adolescent delinquency and depression. Participants and setting: Data came from a national longitudinal survey of families with children born in large U.S. cities 1998-2000 in which mothers had at least partial custody of children (N = 2,719). Methods: Structural equation modeling with latent variables estimated a measurement model using confirmatory factor analysis and a structural model testing direct and indirect pathways. Results: Maternal depression was directly associated with both physical and psychological aggression in parenting (β = 0.08, p < 0.001 and β = 0.12, p < 0.001, respectively), and psychological aggression related directly with adolescent delinquency (β = 0.24, p < 0.01). Furthermore, maternal depression was indirectly associated with adolescent delinquency via psychological aggression in parenting (β = 0.03, p < 0.05). Physical aggression in parenting did not mediate links between maternal depression and either adolescent outcome. Conclusions: Findings provide insights into the parent-level drivers of adolescent emotional and behavioral outcomes. Screening for maternal depression and providing parenting support to vulnerable families offers promise for preventing adverse parenting and supporting healthy adolescent development.


Adolescent development; Child maltreatment prevention; Maternal depression; Parenting


Child Psychology | Maternal and Child Health



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