Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Maternal depressive symptoms and child behavior among Latina adolescent mothers and their toddlers: Transactional relations and moderating processes
by Smith, Erin N., Ph.D., Kent State University, 2013, 148; 3618925
Abstract (Summary)

Literature and research with adult mothers indicate a transactional relation between maternal depressive symptoms and child behavior. Evidence also indicates that gender may moderate this relation, such that males may be more vulnerable to their mothers' depression early in life and may display higher levels of externalizing behavior than females. However, little research to date has investigated these relations in samples of adolescent mothers, specifically Latina adolescent mothers, and none, to the author's knowledge, have investigated the transactional nature of the relation. Latina adolescent mothers are important to study as they have the highest birthrate in the U. S. compared to other ethnic groups. Adolescent mothers also face negative risk factors that influence their own psychological adjustment; and their children already face high risk for negative outcomes. One potential protective factor for children of adolescent mothers is mothers' romantic partners whose involvement in child care has been shown to buffer children against the negative effects of maternal depressive symptoms and other maternal risk factors. Investigating these relations is imperative to inform intervention and prevention efforts for Latina adolescent mothers and their children. Using a sample of primarily Puerto Rican adolescent mothers and their toddlers for which data were collected at two time points, 6 months apart; the current study used a path analysis framework to test hypothesized models. First, the longitudinal, transactional relations between maternal depressive symptoms and two child behavior variables — internalizing and externalizing problems — were examined. Second, the current study examined the direct and moderating effects of gender in order to better understand the nature of the relation between maternal depressive symptoms and child behavior in our sample. Lastly, the potential protective effect of partner child care involvement was investigated to test whether it positively impacts children in the face of maternal depressive symptoms. Results were consistent with theory and research in that maternal depressive symptoms uniquely predicted changes in both child internalizing and externalizing behavior scores over 6 months when controlling for concurrent relations between the variables. Additionally, maternal depressive symptoms, child internalizing, and child externalizing each showed temporal stability in the current sample. However, transactional models were not significant as neither child internalizing nor child externalizing significantly predicted changes in maternal depressive symptoms over time. Neither child gender nor partner child care involvement moderated the relation between maternal depressive symptoms and child internalizing or externalizing behavior problems. In contrast to previous research and normative data, gender differences were found for child externalizing behavior problems such that males had significantly higher mean scores than females at Time 2. Results are discussed considering limitations, implications for prevention and treatment programs, and future research directions.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Grau, Josefina M.
Commitee: Anhalt, Karla, Grau, Josefina, Kerns, Kathryn, Richardson, Rhonda, Wildman, Beth
School: Kent State University
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-B 75/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Womens studies, Latin American Studies, Developmental psychology, Clinical psychology, Individual & family studies, Gender studies
Keywords: Adolescent mothers, Child externalizing, Child internalizing, Latina adolescent mothers, Maternal depressive symptoms, Toddlers
Publication Number: 3618925
ISBN: 978-1-303-87480-2
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