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Child Psychiatry Hum Dev. 2018 Feb;49(1):123-136. doi: 10.1007/s10578-017-0734-z.

Intergenerational Transmission of Depressive Symptoms: The Role of Parental Negative Perceptions and Behaviors.

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School of Psychology and Cognitive Science, East China Normal University, Junxiu Building 213, 3663 North Zhongshan Road, Shanghai, 200062, China.


This study examined parental proximal processes involving in the intergenerational transmission of depressive symptoms from parents to their children. Extant literature has predominantly focused on maternal depressive symptoms. Yet, the mechanisms that may underlie the transmission of paternal depressive symptoms is less often studied. Participants were Chinese parents of first-graders (Nā€‰=ā€‰2282). Results of structural equation modeling suggested that maternal and paternal depressive symptoms may be transmitted to their children through differential processes. Depressive symptoms in mothers, but not in fathers, were associated with their negatively-biased perceptions and dysfunctional parenting practices, which then predicted depressive symptoms in children. Moreover, mothers' depressive symptoms were associated with children's depressive symptoms regardless of child gender, whereas fathers' depressive symptoms were associated with boys', but not girls', depressive symptoms. Findings expand the understandings on parental processes in the intergenerational transmission of depressive symptoms in families, the role of paternal depressive symptoms in promoting children's depressive symptoms, and who may be at particular risks for psychopathology in the face of parental depressive symptoms.


Intergenerational transmission of depressive symptoms; Maternal depressive symptoms; Parental negative perceptions; Parenting practices; Paternal depressive symptoms

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