Parental factors associated with depression and anxiety in young people: a systematic review and meta-analysis

J Affect Disord. 2014 Mar;156:8-23. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2013.11.007. Epub 2013 Nov 18.


Background: There is a burgeoning and varied literature examining the associations between parental factors and depression or anxiety disorders in young people. However, there is hitherto no systematic review of this complex literature with a focus on the 12-18 years age range, when the first onset for these disorders peaks. Furthermore, to facilitate the application of the evidence in prevention, a focus on modifiable factors is required.

Methods: Employing the PRISMA method, we conducted a systematic review of parental factors associated with depression and anxiety disorders in young people which parents can potentially modify.

Results: We identified 181 articles altogether, with 140 examining depression, 17 examining anxiety problems, and 24 examining both outcomes. Stouffer's method of combining p values was used to determine whether associations between variables were reliable, and meta-analyses were conducted to estimate the mean effect sizes of associations between each parental factor and outcome.

Limitations: Limitations include sacrificing micro-level detail for a macro-level synthesis of the literature, not systematically reviewing moderators and mediators, the lack of generalizability across cultures and to younger or adult children, and the inability to conduct a meta-analysis on all included studies.

Conclusions: Parental factors with a sound evidence base indicating increased risk for both depression and anxiety include less warmth, more inter-parental conflict, over-involvement, and aversiveness; and for depression additionally, they include less autonomy granting and monitoring.

Keywords: Adolescent; Mental disorders; Parenting; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / etiology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / prevention & control
  • Child
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Depression / prevention & control
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Parents / psychology
  • Risk Factors