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J Fam Psychol. 2008 Oct;22(5):742-51. doi: 10.1037/a0013514.

Reciprocal models of child behavior and depressive symptoms in mothers and fathers in a sample of children at risk for early conduct problems.

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Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.


Although much has been written about transactional models in the study of parenting practices, relatively few researchers have used this approach to examine how child behavior might be related to parental well-being. This study used latent growth curve modeling to test transactional models of age 2 child noncompliance, parental depressive symptoms, and age 4 internalizing and externalizing behaviors using a subsample of families in the Early Steps Multisite Study. In unconditional models, maternal depressive symptoms showed a linear decrease from child ages 2 to 4, whereas paternal depression did not show significant change. Observed child noncompliance at age 2 showed significant associations with concurrent reports of maternal depressive symptoms and trend-level associations with paternal depressive symptoms. For both parents, higher levels of initial depressive symptoms were related to increased age 4 child internalizing behaviors. The findings provide support for reciprocal process models of parental depression and child behavior, and this study is one of the first to present empirical evidence that fathers' depressive symptoms have bidirectional associations with their children's behavior in early childhood.

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