The Relationship Between Parental Depressive Symptoms and Children’s Behavior

The Relationship Between Parental Depressive Symptoms and Children’s Behavior Brodyn Evans PSYC 1013 October 11, 2018 Richard B. Slatcher, Ph.D. and Christopher J. Trentacosta. Naturalistic Observation Study of the Links Between Parental Depressive Symptoms and Preschoolers’ Behaviors in Everyday Life. J Fam Psychol. 2011 Jun. Summary Introduction The relationship between children’s behaviors and parents’ depressive symptoms is one area of study that attempts to recognize the influence of depression in mothers and fathers as it directly correlates with their children’s every day behaviors. One study that examines the influence of parental depressive symptoms and children’s behavior is entitled “A Naturalistic Observation Study of the Links Between Parental Depressive Symptoms and Preschoolers’ Behaviors in Everyday Life”. Participants Thirty-five pre-school students and their families from Austin, Texas were the subject of this study. Families were required to meet specific criteria to participate in the study; i.e. children must be between the ages of 3-5 and live in a two-parent household where parents displayed depressive symptoms. 21 girls and 14 boys Participated in the study.

The families’ annual household income ranged from $30,000 to $500,000, with a median of $85,000. The sample was 73% white, 21% Latino/Hipic, 4% African-American and 2% other. Students were recruited through area daycares and through a posting on Craig’s List. Procedure Families attended an information session to learn about the study and complete all documentation. Following, the children were equipped with specialized shirts that hid an Electronic Activated Recorder to capture negative words, crying, and other sounds related to negative behaviors. One year later, the process was repeated to determine differences in the child’s behaviors in correlation with the parents’ depressive symptoms. Independent variables in this experiment included the children’s age and the two-parent household composition requirement. The dependent variables included parent’s depressive symptoms and child response to parental gender. Instruments The tools used in this study included the baseline parental depression scales; i.e. either the a short form of the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression scale (CES-D Short Form) or the Beck Depression Inventory, and a baseline and one-year Electronically Activated Recorder, and the Child Behavioral Checklist.

Data Analysis The EAR recorded nineteen hours of sound that was standardized for each child. 150 randomly selected 30 second sound bites were transcribed by research assistants and coded using a linguistic analysis program. Data was analyzed to examine child behaviors; such as whining, negative emotion words, acting mad, watching television, crying, socializing, and laughing. Results and Conclusions The authors identified two major findings:  Parental depressive symptoms were positively associated with children’s crying, acting mad, and watching television. Mothers’ and fathers’ depressive symptoms at baseline additively predicted increases in children’s negative emotion word use one year later. The researchers concluded that there is a link between parental depression and childhood misbehavior. Additionally, they determined that focused interventions and relationship building are important for children whose parents are living with depressive symptoms. Critique Problem The research is a study of parental depressive symptoms’ impact and relationship in child development and negative behaviors in early childhood. Although the problem is clearly stated, the researchers did not provide a comparative group; such as childhood behaviors related to parents without depressive symptoms. Review of Literature Although the researchers alluded to other literature and studies that address this problem, they stated that the research is in its early stage without naturalistic observation studies to compare and contrast their findings. Hypothesis The researches predicted that parental depressive symptoms would affect early childhood behavior.

Their hypothesis indicated that children learn to regulate their emotions through learned behavior and relationships. The parental relationship is an important factor in early childhood development and depressive symptoms create conflict and may prevent the parent from modeling positive behaviors. Participants The study’s sampling was very narrow in scope; including geographical area, sampling size, and lack of diversity in sampling. This study flaw makes the results challenging to apply to other settings and populations. The sampling was from an urban area and was mostly White and Latino. It will be difficult to transfer findings to other races and rural populations whose experiences and resources may be different. Instruments The instruments used in the study were both naturalistic observations based on the EAR and evidence-based assessment tools completed by the parents. Children wore the EAR for a day-long period where 30 second sound bites were recorded, coded and analyzed for specific behaviors.

Procedure The study only focused on the parents’ depressive symptoms as the root cause of the child’s negative behaviors. The study does not account for other factors; such as other caring adults, other mental health/physical health conditions, parental substance use, parental depression treatment, other household conditions, societal influences on the child, environmental influences, poverty, and community resources. Data Analysis The study’s data was gathered by research assistants who were responsible for transcribing the EAR recordings and coding the results based on their interpretation of the sounds. Data input is dependent on the research assistants’ accuracy and may be subject to human error. Additionally, parental responses on the evidence-based tools are subjective to the parents’ past experiences, interpretation of questionnaires, and parent responses impacted by past stigma or discrimination. The connection between parent gender and child behaviors were significant in considering interventions by fathers versus mothers. Results and Conclusions The results are presented logically, yet due to the narrowness of the study, additional research is necessary to determine the connection between parental depressive symptoms and early childhood behavior. Although the study concludes that parental depressive symptoms can have a direct influence on children’s negative behaviors, too many variables are not accounted for.

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