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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Maternal Depression during Early Childhood, Persistent Aggression into Emerging Adulthood: Neurodevelopmental Pathways of Risk
by Norman, Mary Catherine, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2018, 105; 13872034
Abstract (Summary)

an accumulation of evidence documenting prospective links between maternal depression and aggression in offspring, the mechanisms underlying this association remain somewhat mysterious. Mothers’ depressive symptoms could undermine offspring’s learning of stage-adaptive emotion regulation (ER) skills during early childhood (e.g., Seifer, Schiller, Sameroff, Resnick, & Riordan, 1996; Silk, Shaw, Skuban, Oland, & Kovacs, 2006). Some longitudinal studies link maternal depression to disruptions in young children’s ER, which has been found to predict elevated aggressive behavior in later childhood and emerging adolescence (e.g., Gilliom et al., 2002; Trentacosta & Shaw, 2009). Neurodevelopmental mechanisms such as altered organization or refinement in cortico-limbic pathways could also play a role in prospective associations between mothers’ depression during early childhood and dysregulated aggression in offspring (Callaghan & Tottenham, 2016; Sheikh et al., 2014). To further inform future inquiries into these mechanisms of risk, the present study tested whether maternal depression in early childhood was prospectively linked to persistent patterns of aggression at school entry and in emerging adulthood via disruptions in early ER processes and related patterns of neuroanatomical connectivity. Participants were drawn from a sample of 310 males at elevated risk for disruptive behavior problems based on their gender and low socioeconomic status. Direct paths from maternal depression and preschool-age ER in early childhood to offspring aggression at school age were supported. Unexpectedly, aggressive behavior was not found to be stable from the early school-age period into young adulthood across informant and context. Children’s aggressive behavior was inversely associated with uncinate fasciculus structural integrity in emerging adulthood, such that higher aggression at school-age predicted lower fractional anisotropy at age 20. Another index of uncinate structural integrity (i.e., mean diffusivity) was positively associated with general antisocial behavior and depressive symptoms in young adulthood. The present findings add new, longitudinal evidence to inform nascent theories for neurodevelopmental mechanisms underlying antisocial behavior and clarify directions for future research endeavors to illuminate other potential neurodevelopmental mechanisms of risk related to mothers’ depression.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Erickson, Kirk I.
Commitee: Erickson, Kirk I., Forbes, Erika E., Shaw, Danel S., Silk, Jennifer S.
School: University of Pittsburgh
Department: Clinical - Developmental Psychology
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-B 80/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Developmental psychology, Clinical psychology
Keywords: Aggression, Maternal depression, Neurodevelopment, emotion regulation
Publication Number: 13872034
ISBN: 978-1-392-04256-4
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