Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

104P Ethnic Group Differences In a Mediated Model of Maternal Depression, Parenting Stress, Child-Routines, and Emotional-Behavior Regulation of Preschool Children In Low-Income Families

Saturday, January 14, 2012
Independence F - I (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Michaela Zajicek-Farber, MSW PhD, Associate Professor, The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C, DC
Lynn Milgram Mayer, MSW, PhD, Assistant Professor, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC
Purpose: Maternal depression in low-income families poses risk to child development through impaired parenting (Institute of Medicine, 2009). Fathers' involvement in parenting contributes significantly to family wellbeing (Cabrera, Fagan, & Farrie, 2008), maternal experience with depression (Paulson & Bazemore, 2010), parent-child interaction (Kane & Garber, 2004), and early child development (Davis et al., 2011). Studies examining connections between maternal depression and early child development suggest meditational influence of parent-child interaction (Zajicek-Farber, 2009), and parenting-stress (McBride, Schoppe, & Rane, 2002), but no study has yet examined the empirical role that fathers' parenting-stress and involvement with child may play in the context of mothers' depression, parenting-stress, and engagement in child-routines. No study has considered whether ethnic/groups may differentiate these relationships. Having child-routines reflects best early parenting practices (Borkowski & Weaver, 2006), protects against parenting-stress (Markson & Fiese, 2000), and supports early emotional-behavioral regulation (Landy, 2002). Emotional-behavioral regulation predicts children's developmental competencies (McClelland et al., 2006). Examining ethnic/group differences is buttressed by research showing ethnic/group disparities in children's early development (Magnuson, Lahaie, & Waldofel, 2006), and in varied parenting practices (Keels, 2009). This study investigated the mediating influence of child-routines between maternal depression, parenting-stress, and child emotional-behavioral regulation, and the role fathers' parenting-stress and helpfulness with child contributed to maternal parenting, while examining differences in three ethnic/groups. Method: Secondary data analysis used 3001 children enrolled during 0-3 phase into the federal Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project (EHSREP). Data collection used structured interviews with EHSREP-trained interviewers. At 36 months, 60% (N=1792) to 70% (N=2106) of children had required data across three ethnic/groups (White=1091, Black=1014, Hispanic=693). Parental variables on mental health, stress, and parent-child engagement (CES-D; Abidin's Parenting Stress Index; EHS-Questions on child-routines, and father's helpfulness with child) were self-reported. Trained examiners tested children's emotional-behavioral regulation (Bailey - BBRS scales). Structural equation modeling (SEM) with moderation analysis for child's ethnic/group tested path-models, and maximum likelihood (ML), path coefficients (Arbuckle, 2006) with SPSS (AMOS 16). Meditation/moderation models followed standard recommendations (Frazier, Tix, & Barron, 2004; Holmbeck, 1997). Results: Without ethnic/group, the final mediated path model showed good fit (Chi-square = 65.61, df = 28, p <.001; NFI = .969, CFI = .982, RMSEA = .021, Hoelter's N=2208 at p < .01). The impact of maternal depression on parenting-stress was direct and partially mediated by father's parenting-stress and helpfulness with child. Maternal-stress directly mediated maternal-depression and paternal-stress onto children's emotional-behavioral regulation. Importantly, the effects of both parents' stress on children's emotional regulation were mediated by maternal engagement in child-routines. However, ethnic/groups significantly moderated the path-relations in this model. White and Black models retained all paths but with different strengths. Hispanic model required removal of child-routines variable and re-alignment of some paths.

Implications: As early childhood program are expected to be culturally sensitive to families' needs, this study reinforces the findings that ethnic/group differences may influence parenting behaviors differently, generating different consequences for child development. Engagement in child-routines needs to respect salience of family culture. Fathers' positive engagement in parenting needs ongoing encouragement for promoting regulatory behaviors in children.