Maternal versus child risk and the development of parent-child and family relationships in five high-risk populations

Dev Psychopathol. Spring 2007;19(2):293-312. doi: 10.1017/S0954579407070150.


Individual, dyadic, and triadic influences on the development of the family system were examined in the context of developmental risk. Participants were 145 couples and their 4-month-old first-born child in six groups: controls, three mother-risk groups (depressed, anxious, comorbid), and two infant-risk groups (preterm, intrauterine growth retardation). Dyadic and triadic interactions were observed. Differences in parent-infant reciprocity and intrusiveness were found, with mother-risk groups scoring less optimally than controls and infant-risk groups scoring the poorest. Similar results emerged for family-level cohesion and rigidity. Structural modeling indicated that father involvement had an influence on the individual level, by reducing maternal distress, as well as on the triadic level, by increasing family cohesion. Maternal emotional distress affected the reciprocity component of early dyadic and triadic relationships, whereas infant negative emotionality impacted on the intrusive element of parenting and family-level relationships. Discussion considered the multiple and pattern-specific influences on the family system as it is shaped by maternal and child risk conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology*
  • Female
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / psychology*
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior / psychology
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Paternal Behavior
  • Risk Factors
  • Temperament