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J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2009 Nov;37(8):1035-48. doi: 10.1007/s10802-009-9337-x.

Intergenerational transmission of multiple problem behaviors: prospective relationships between mothers and daughters.

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  • 1WPIC, 3811 O'Hara St., Pittsburgh, PA 15206, USA.


Much of the research examining intergenerational continuity of problems from mother to offspring has focused on homotypic continuity (e.g., depression), despite the fact that different types of mental health problems tend to cluster in both adults and children. It remains unclear whether mothers with multiple mental health problems compared to mothers with fewer or no problems are more likely to have daughters with multiple mental health problems during middle childhood (ages 7 to 11). Six waves of maternal and child data from the Pittsburgh Girls Study (n = 2,451) were used to examine the specificity of effects of maternal psychopathology on child adjustment. Child multiple mental health problems comprised disruptive behavior, ADHD symptoms, depressed mood, anxiety symptoms and somatic complaints, while maternal multiple mental health problems consisted of depression, prior conduct problems and somatic complaints. Generalized Estimating Equations (GEE) was used to examine the prospective relationships between mother's single and multiple mental health problems and their daughter's single and multiple mental health problems across the elementary school-aged period (ages 7-11 years). The results show that multiple mental health problems in the mothers predicted multiple mental health problems in the daughters even when earlier mental health problem of the daughters, demographic factors, and childrearing practices were controlled. Maternal low parental warmth and harsh punishment independently contributed to the prediction of multiple mental health problems in their daughter, but mediation analyses showed that the contribution of parenting behaviors to the explanation of girls' mental health problems was small.

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