Mother and Child Depressive Symptoms in Youth with Spina Bifida: Additive, Moderator, and Mediator Models

Kriston B. Schellinger, Grayson N. Holmbeck, Bonnie S. Essner, Renae Alvarez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The purpose of the study was to examine the extent to which parenting behaviors influence the relation between maternal and child depressive symptoms in youth with spina bifida and a comparison sample. Previous research has found that maternal depression not only negatively impacts the mother-child relationship, but also places the child at risk for developing depressive symptoms. However, certain parenting behaviors might buffer the association between maternal and youth depression. The influence of maternal depressive symptoms and parenting behavior (i. e., acceptance, behavioral control, psychological control) on youth depressive symptoms were examined in the context of three models: (1) an additive/cumulative risk model, (2) a moderator model, and (3) a mediator model. Data were examined longitudinally at five time points when youth were 8-9 through 16-17 years of age. Results supported an additive/cumulative risk model, but did not support the moderator or mediator models. Low maternal acceptance, high behavioral control, and high psychological control were risk factors for child depressive symptoms at several time points, with maternal depressive symptoms exerting an additional risk at later time points. A group difference between the spina bifida and comparison youth was not supported. Findings indicate that in general, maternal parenting behavior is salient throughout childhood and early adolescence, but maternal depressive symptoms do not exert an influence until mid-adolescence. Family interventions should aim to promote maternal mental health and maternal parenting behaviors to reduce the risk of the development of depressive symptoms in adolescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-292
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Adolescence
  • Child depression
  • Maternal depression
  • Parenting
  • Spina bifida

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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