Depressed mothers' behavioral competence with their infants: Demographic and psychosocial correlates

Douglas Michael Teti, Donna M. Gelfand, Janiece Pompa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


A multidimensional study examined individual differences in observed behavior of 59 depressed mothers interacting with their 3–13-month-old infants in relation to selected demographic and psychosocial variables. Maternal competence–defined as sensitive, affectively appropriate maternal behavior, was positively related to maternal education, family income, and the number of hours mothers worked outside the home. Maternal competence was inversely related to life stress, marital discord, poor social support, and infant difficulty; all of these relations appeared to be mediated by the women's feelings of self-efficacy in the maternal role. A “risk index,” composed of noncorrelated variables (family income, hours per week mother worked outside the home, and maternal self-efficacy), was strongly related to maternal parenting competence. These results suggest that the quality of depressed mothers' behavior with their babies is related to self-evaluations and contextual risk or protective factors. The findings also highlight the heterogeneity in life circumstances and functioning of depressed women and the probable resulting variability in the level of functioning of their children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-270
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1990

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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