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Title: Mechanisms of resilience for children of mothers with depression
Author: Dobrowolski, Stephanie
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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Maternal depression is a common mental health disorder that can have significant adverse effects on child functioning, including increased rates of child behaviour problems. Adopting a resilience approach highlights that despite the increased risk there is considerable variation in child behaviour development, although mechanisms through which this occurs are not well understood. This thesis investigates positive parenting, harsh parenting, and child inhibitory control as developmentally salient processes that may explain why some children of mothers with depression develop more positive behaviours than others. Analyses were conducted using data from the Early Steps Multisite Study, a longitudinal randomised controlled trial that includes 731 ethnically diverse families from three sites across the United States. Baseline measures were completed at child age 2, with annual follow-up assessments until age 8. These analyses used mother self-reported depressive symptoms, observed measures of parenting, alternate caregiver-reported child inhibitory control, and mother- and teacher-reported child externalising behaviours. Categorical and continuous variables of maternal depression and child behaviour were tested to explore the implications of different analytic approaches, particularly with reference to the concept of resilience. Logistic regression results indicate that child inhibitory control is a robust predictor of developmentally normative behaviours for children of mothers with depression and children in general. Linear regression results support a risk-specific effect of harsh parenting, such that it interacts with maternal depression to predict increased externalising behaviours specifically for children of mothers with depression. Positive parenting appears to predict the behaviour of children in general but not the behaviour of children of mothers with depression. Path analyses indicate that between the ages of 2 and 4, harsh parenting partially mediates the association between maternal depression and child externalising behaviours. Moderated mediation results suggest that children with lower levels of inhibitory control elicit increased harsh parenting behaviours from mothers both with and without depression. Cross-lagged path analyses provide support for reciprocal influence between maternal depression, harsh parenting, and child externalising behaviour, and suggest an impact of maternal depression severity on the establishment of negative patterns of mother-child interactions from age 2. The findings of this thesis support the importance of reducing harsh parenting behaviours particularly for mothers with depression and of improving child self-regulation from an early age. The concept of resilience as a dimensional and potentially reciprocal process is discussed in the context of maternal depression and child behaviour development. Results emphasise that both mother and child are actively involved in influencing processes of resilience. From early childhood, there is a need to support more adaptive patterns of behaviour between mothers with depression and their children in order to increase the likelihood of positive child outcomes over time.
Supervisor: Gardner, Frances Sponsor: Clarendon Fund
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Developmental psychology ; Social policy & social work ; Resilience ; Maternal depression ; Child development