Abstract: Examining Rates of Depression and Its Impact on Parent-Child Interaction (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Examining Rates of Depression and Its Impact on Parent-Child Interaction

Saturday, January 14, 2023
South Mountain, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Lucinda Okine, MSW, PhD student, USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Allison Kemner, Vice President, Parents as Teachers National Center, St. Louis, MO
Dorian E. Traube, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, Los Angeles, CA
Background/Purpose: Positive parent-child interaction is critical for growth and healthy child development. The quality of parent-child interaction shapes the language, emotional, social and cognitive development of the child. However, maternal depression may have a pervasive detrimental impact on parenting practices and parent-child relationships, subsequently influencing the healthy development of children. This is of particular concern among parents with children in early childhood (0-5 years), considering the primacy of this developmental period. Home visiting programs provide critical support for children and families during early childhood. However, maternal depression can severely limit the effectiveness of home visiting programs to improve outcomes. Using a national sample from the Parents as Teachers home visiting program, this study examined associations between family stressors and elevated depressive symptoms. Additionally, the study assessed whether depressive symptomology and family stressors are associated with dimensions of parent-child interactions, specifically affection, responsiveness, encouragement, and teaching. Identifying factors that may impact the parent-child interaction in Home Visitation, is critical to provide evidence to support home visitors in addressing mental health, family stress, and parent coaching.

Methods: Data for this study comes from a national sample of Parents as Teachers affiliates (n= 5838). More than half of the participants were White (61.2 %). Mothers were on average 32.2 years old (SD = 6.6). Measures included family demographics, family stressors, rates of depression screening, and Parenting Interactions with Child: Checklist of Observations Linked to Outcomes (PICCOLO). This study utilized cross-sectional logistic and hierarchical linear regression. All statistical analyses were conducted in SPSS.

Results: Several family stressors including parental intimate partner violence exposure, child disability or health condition, recent immigrant, low family income, child abuse, and military deployment were strongly associated with maternal depressive symptoms and parent-child interaction. Additionally, family stressors were associated with lower parental responsiveness, affection, teaching and encouragement. Further, controlling for socio-demographic variables and family stressors, the study found that mothers who screened in the probable Major Depressive Disorder range also showed lower parent-child interaction (β = -1.24, p < .05).

Conclusions and Implications: Positive interaction between mother-child is vital to ensure positive outcomes in many areas of child development. However, mothers with depressive symptoms may have difficulties engaging with their children and may need support in all domains of parenting. These findings demonstrate that maternal mental health may be exacerbated when mothers do not receive support to mitigate family stressors, highlighting the importance of tailoring home visiting services to address the unique needs and stressors of each family. While some interventions focus on increasing maternal mental health, to improve parenting capacity, this study points to the necessity of simultaneously addressing endogenous mental health symptomology and exogenous environmental stressors to fully empower mothers in during parenting.