Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The present study was designed to examine the relation between maternal depression and child adjustment. Three major issues were addressed. First, to determine the specificity to depression of observed effects, four groups of subjects were included in the study: clinically depressed psychiatric patients, nondepressed psychiatric patients, nondepressed medical patients, and nondepressed community women. Second, to determine whether previous maternal reports reflected accurate perceptions or were a function of a maternal negative response set, data on maternal adjustment, child adjustment, and mother-child interaction were obtained from multiple sources. Finally, the stability of observed effects was assessed by collecting data both early in the patient's treatment and six to eight weeks later.;Sixty-one mothers and the youngest of the children who was between the ages of seven and thirteen completed the study. Multiple measures of both maternal and child adjustment were obtained; mothers and children also took part in a videotaped interaction, which was subsequently coded into positive, negative, and neutral behaviors.;Results indicated that the depressed mothers were more severely impaired than were mothers in the other three groups. Despite a reduction of their depression from moderate to mild levels, they reported persistent social dysfunction. Depressed mothers described their children as having various behavior problems; clinicians also rated these children as demonstrating disturbed behavior suggesting that maternal reports reflect accurate perceptions of problems in these children.;Although the offspring of the depressed mothers were the most impaired children in the sample, the lack of differences between children of depressed and nondepressed psychiatric patient mothers suggests that child adjustment is more strongly related to the severity of maternal psychopathology than it is to diagnostic status. Despite some improvements in child adjustment ratings, children of disturbed mothers continued to evidence problems at the second session.;Analyses of the observational data revealed no differences between groups in terms of positive or negative behavior on the part of either mothers or children. These findings suggest that dysfunctional interactions found in other studies may reflect situation-specific difficulties, rather than global skills deficits.



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