Parental Depression and Anxiety and Early Childhood Behavior Problems Across Family Types
Published In: Journal of Marriage and Family, v. 69, no. 5, Dec. 2007, p. 1162-1177
Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2007
Using the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, we examine the association between parental major depressive and generalized anxiety disorders and child behavior problems across family types: married, cohabiting, involved nonresident father, and noninvolved nonresident father. Among 3-year-olds in all families, maternal anxiety/depression is associated with increased odds of anxious/depressed, attention deficit, and oppositional defiant disorders (N = 2,120). Paternal anxiety/depression has no significant association with these problem behaviors; father's illness, however, exacerbates anxious/depressed behaviors in young children if both parents are ill and he is coresident. The findings underscore the importance of maternal mental health for child well-being and suggest that a negative interaction between parent illnesses is most likely when parents and children share the same disorder.