Offspring Personality Mediates the Association between Maternal Depression and Childhood Psychopathology

J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2019 Feb;47(2):345-357. doi: 10.1007/s10802-018-0453-3.


Offspring of mothers diagnosed with major depression are at increased risk for a wide range of psychological problems. Previous research has shown that individual differences in personality development can be informative for predicting risk and resilience to psychopathology, especially within at-risk populations. In the present study, we examined whether individual differences in offspring personality development during early to middle childhood could account for the association between maternal depression and offspring behavior problems later in childhood. Participants included 64 offspring of mothers diagnosed with major depression and 68 offspring of healthy comparison mothers. Personality was assessed via parent report at ages 3, 4, 5, and 9. Offspring internalizing and externalizing symptoms were assessed at age 9 via parent and teacher report. Results of latent growth curve models indicated that offspring Neuroticism, Conscientiousness, and Agreeableness mediated the link between early maternal depression and later childhood behavior problems, though results varied across maternal and teacher reports. Findings suggest that individual differences in youth personality and personality development are important predictors of emerging psychopathology among offspring of mothers diagnosed with depression.

Keywords: Development; Maternal depression; Personality; Psychopathology.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavioral Symptoms / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents / statistics & numerical data*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Personality Development
  • Personality*