Transactional Associations Among Maternal Depression, Parent–Child Coercion, and Child Conduct Problems During Early Childhood

Katherine A. Hails, Julia D. Reuben, Daniel S. Shaw, Thomas J. Dishion, Melvin N. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Maternal depression is among the most consistent and well-replicated risk factors for negative child outcomes, particularly in early childhood. Although children of depressed mothers are at an increased risk of adjustment problems, conversely, children with emotional or behavioral problems also have been found to adversely compromise maternal functioning, including increasing maternal depression. The purpose of this investigation was to examine transactional associations among maternal depression, parent–child coercive interaction, and children’s conduct and emotional problems in early childhood using a cross-lagged panel model. Participants were 731 toddlers and families that were part of the Early Steps Multisite Study, a sample of diverse ethnic backgrounds and communities (i.e., rural, urban, suburban) recruited from Women, Infants, and Children Nutritional Supplement Centers. Analyses provided support for the existence of some modest transactional relations between parent–child coercion and maternal depression and between maternal depression and child conduct problems. Cross-lagged effects were somewhat stronger between children age 2–3 than age 3–4. Similar patterns were observed in the model with child emotional problems replacing conduct problems, but relations between coercion and maternal depression were attenuated in this model. In addition, the transactional hypothesis was more strongly supported when maternal versus secondary caregiver reports were used for child problem behavior. The findings have implications for the need to support caregivers and reinforce positive parenting practices within family-centered interventions in early childhood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S291-S305
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Issue numbersup1
StatePublished - Dec 21 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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