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J Fam Psychol. 2009 Dec;23(6):871-81. doi: 10.1037/a0016758.

Mothers' and fathers' attributions for adolescent behavior: an examination in families of depressed, subdiagnostic, and nondepressed youth.

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  • 1Oregon Research Institute, Eugene, Oregon 97405, USA.


This study examined whether parents of adolescents experiencing depressive symptoms or disorder make more negative and fewer positive attributions for their adolescents' behavior than do parents of nondepressed adolescents, and whether parental attributions for adolescents' behavior contribute to parenting behavior, above and beyond the adolescents' behavior. Parents and adolescents (76 girls and 48 boys) participated in videotaped problem-solving interactions (PSIs). Each parent subsequently watched the videotape and offered attributions for their adolescent's behavior. In addition, parent and adolescent behavior during the PSIs was coded. Mothers and fathers in families of nondepressed adolescents made significantly fewer negative attributions for their children's behavior than did parents in families of adolescents with diagnostic or subdiagnostic levels of depressive symptoms. Moreover, mothers' and fathers' negative attributions were related to greater levels of observed aggressive behavior and lower levels of observed facilitative behavior during the PSIs controlling for both demographic characteristics and the relative level of adolescent aggressive and facilitative behavior during the PSI.

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