Abstract: (WITHDRAWN) Maternal Depression and Adolescent Behavioral and Emotional Well-Being: The Role of Harsh Parenting (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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16P (WITHDRAWN) Maternal Depression and Adolescent Behavioral and Emotional Well-Being: The Role of Harsh Parenting

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Katherine Marçal, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV
Background and Purpose: Healthy adolescent development depends upon a stable home base from which youth can explore their identities, take calculated risks, and fail without catastrophic consequences. Close, consistent relationships with supportive adults are crucial during this developmental period, and caregiver mental health is thus an influential factor in promoting adolescent well-being. Prior research has linked maternal depression to a range of consequences for children, but evidence on adverse outcomes for adolescents is less extensive. Behavioral and emotional functioning are key indicators of adolescent well-being, but the impacts of maternal depression on adolescent delinquency and depression are not fully understood. Furthermore, the role of adverse parenting in mediating these relationships remains elusive. Illuminating the pathways from maternal mental health to adolescent behavioral and emotional functioning via harsh parenting may offer important insights into leverage points for maltreatment prevention and intervention The present study leveraged a large, longitudinal survey of families across the U.S. to investigate whether harsh parenting mediated the links between maternal depression and adolescent delinquency and depression.

Methods: Data came from the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study, a national longitudinal survey of families with children born in large U.S. cities 1998-2000. The analytic sample was limited families in which mother’s had at custody of the child at least half the time (N = 2,719). Structural equation modeling with latent variables tested estimated a measurement model using confirmatory factor analysis and a structural model testing direct and indirect pathways. Coefficients for indirect effects were calculated as the product of each individual path. Standard errors for indirect effects were calculated using Sobel’s test to determine statistical significance. Chi-square, RMSEA, CFI, and SRMR values assessed fit of the final structural model. Missing data were handled using full information maximum likelihood (FIML).

Results: Mothers’ self-reported physical and psychological aggression were low on average when children were nine years old, though psychological aggression occurred more frequently than physical. Average levels of teen delinquency hovered between 1 and 2 on 4-point Likert-type scales assessing frequency. Both the measurement (RMSEA = 0.02, CFI = 0.97, SRMR = 0.03) and structural models (RMSEA = 0.03, CFI = 0.92, SRMR = 0.04). Maternal depression was directly associated with adolescent depression (β = 0.04, p < 0.05), and indirectly associated with adolescent delinquency via psychological aggression in parenting (β = 0.03, p < 0.05). Physical aggression in parenting did not mediate links between maternal depression and either adolescent outcome.

Conclusions and Implications: Findings provide insights into the parent-level drivers of adolescent emotional and behavioral outcomes. Maternal depression is linked directly with adolescent depression, and indirectly with adolescent delinquency. Understanding the pathways driving maladaptive adolescent outcomes highlight areas for future research as well as opportunities for prevention and intervention among at-risk families. Screening for maternal depression and providing parenting support to vulnerable families offers promise for preventing maltreatment and supporting healthy adolescent development.