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J Fam Psychol. 2014 Jun;28(3):278-86. doi: 10.1037/a0036672. Epub 2014 Apr 28.

Observed parental responsiveness/warmth and children's coping: cross-sectional and prospective relations in a family depression preventive intervention.

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  • 1Department of Psychology and Human Development, Vanderbilt University.
  • 2Department of Psychology, University of Vermont.


The current study examined concurrent and prospective relations between observed parenting behaviors and children's coping strategies in the context of a preventive intervention designed to change both parenting and children's use of secondary control coping. Questionnaires and direct observations were obtained from parents with a history of depression (N = 180) and their children (ages 9-15 years) at baseline, 6-month (after completion of the intervention), and 18-month follow-up assessments. Cross-sectional analyses indicate that baseline observed parental responsiveness/warmth was significantly associated with composite parent/child reports of children's baseline primary control, secondary control, and disengagement coping. Using a mixed effects model, prospective mediational analyses indicate that intervention-driven improvements in observed parental responsiveness/warmth from baseline to 6 months significantly accounted for increases in children's use of secondary control coping strategies from baseline to the 18-month follow-up assessment. No significant mediation effects emerged for primary control coping or disengagement coping. The present findings suggest that it may be possible to improve children's coping strategies not only through targeted interventions, but also indirectly by improving responsive and warm parenting behaviors. Limitations and strengths are noted and implications for future research are outlined.

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