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

17167 The Contribution of Fathers' Parenting In a Mediated Model Between Maternal Depression, Child-Routines, and Emotional-Behavior Regulation Competence of Preschool Children In Low-Income Families

Friday, January 13, 2012: 3:30 PM
Franklin Square (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Michaela Farber, PhD, BCD, LCSW-C, Assistant 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 poses risk to child development primarily through impaired parenting (Institute of Medicine, 2009), and particularly in low-income families (Malik, 2007). Fathers' involvement in parenting is becoming recognized for its significant contribution 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 (Paulson, Keefe, & Leiferman, 2009; 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. Having child-routines reflects best early parenting practices (Borkowski & Weaver, 2006), and can protect against parenting-stress (Markson & Fiese, 2000), and support early emotional-behavioral regulation (Landy, 2002). In turn, emotional-behavioral regulation predicts children's developmental competencies (McClelland et al., 2006). 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. 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. 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 gender tested path-models, and maximum likelihood (ML), path coefficients (Arbuckle, 2006) with SPSS (AMOS 16). Meditation/moderation models followed standard recommendations (Holmbeck, 1997). Results: 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. Group comparison revealed that although results well-fitted both boys and girls (Chi-square = 72.8, df = 56, p = .065; NFI = .963, CFI = .991, RMSEA = .011, Hoelter's N = 2681 at p < .01), gender moderated some path connections. Implications: Young children experience maternal depression through parenting-stress, and such stress impacts parent-child engagement in routines and children's emotional-behavioral competence. Fathers' stress and helpfulness with child can modulate the impact of maternal depression and also directly contribute to maternal engagement in child-routines. Such routines can play protective role in early childhood. As social workers strive to strengthen childrearing practices, interventive efforts need to encourage fathers' engagement in parenting and using routines to promote regulatory behaviors in children.
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