The relation of problem behaviors in preschool children to depressive symptoms in mothers and fathers

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The relation of maternal and paternal depressive symptoms to problem behaviors in a nonclinical sample of preschool children was examined. Data were collected from 46 women, their husbands, and their 4-year-old, first-born children. Observed maternal restrictive and punishing behavior and attachment security of the child were considered additional sources of risk for externalizing and internalizing problem behaviors. Different predictors for child externalizing and internalizing behaviors were identified via hierarchical multiple regression analyses. Maternal and paternal depressive symptoms and maternal restrictive and punishing behavior emerged as salient predictors of child internalizing behaviors. For externalizing behaviors, there were significant gender differences: For girls, maternal depressive symptoms made a significant contribution to the model; the model for boys was not significant. The results perhaps reflect different etiological pathways for externalizing and internalizing behaviors, supporting the suggestion that those behaviors are distinct clinical phenomena, even among very young children. The findings also suggest that nonclinical levels of parental symptomatology show systematic relations to children's problem behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-366
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Genetic Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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