The association between psychopathology in fathers versus mothers and children's internalizing and externalizing behavior problems: a meta-analysis

Psychol Bull. 2002 Sep;128(5):746-73. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.128.5.746.


In light of the selective focus on maternal (vs. paternal) psychopathology as a risk factor for child development, this meta-analysis examines the relative strength of the association between psychopathology in mothers versus fathers and the presence of internalizing and externalizing disorders in children. Associations were stronger between maternal than paternal psychopathology and the presence of internalizing (but not externalizing) problems in children, with all average effect sizes being small in magnitude. Relations were moderated by variables that highlight theoretically relevant differences between psychopathology in mothers versus fathers (e.g., age of children studied, type of parental psychopathology) and by variables related to methodological differences across studies (e.g., method of assessing psychopathology in parents and children, type of sample recruited, familial composition).

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Fathers / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Mothers / psychology*