Background: Both hostile parenting and parental psychopathology have been shown to predict depression in the offspring. However, whether and how they interact in predicting the longitudinal course of depression from adolescence to adulthood remains unclear.
Methods: Participants were from the prospective Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns study, aged 3-18 years at baseline in 1980. We used multilevel modeling for repeated measurements to examine the associations of hostile parenting (i.e., parental intolerance and emotional distance) and parental history of psychopathology with trajectories of depressive symptoms across five study phases from 1992 to 2012.
Results: On average, depressive symptoms decreased in a curvilinear pattern with age. A relatively steep decreasing trend was also observed among offspring of parents with a history of psychopathology but low intolerance. By contrast, among the offspring of parents with a history of psychopathology and high intolerance there was a rising trend in depressive symptoms starting from young adulthood. There was no similar interaction between parental history of psychopathology, emotional distance, and age.
Limitations: Non-standardized, parental self-report scales were used to measure hostile parenting. The observed effects were small, and the depressive symptoms scale applied in the study may not be used for measuring clinical depression.
Conclusions: Parental psychopathology might render individuals sensitive to the unfavorable characteristics of the caregiving environment. Intolerance towards the child can exacerbate the effects of parental psychopathology and have a long-term significance on the developmental trajectory of depressive symptoms over the life-course.
Keywords: Depressive symptoms; Parental psychopathology; Parenting; Trajectory.
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