Social and emotional competence in children of depressed mothers

Child Dev. 1993 Apr;64(2):516-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.1993.tb02925.x.


The relation between maternal unipolar major depression and children's self-concept, self-control, and peer relationships were studied in a middle-class, predominantly white sample of 96 families. Each family included a target child between the ages of 5 and 10. Depressed mothers varied on whether or not the child's father also had a psychiatric disorder. Well mothers all had spouses with no psychiatric disorders. Analyses controlled for marital status, age, and sex of child. Children completed measures of self-concept and peer relations skills; teachers completed measures of self-control and a rating of popularity with peers. Results supported the multiple risk factor model in that fathers' psychiatric status and parents' marital status explained much of the variability in children's social and emotional competence. Maternal depression alone, in the context of a well husband/father, was only related to children having been rated by their teachers as less popular. Results are discussed in terms of possible mechanisms by which maternal depression may interact with paternal psychopathology and divorce in relation to children's social and emotional competence. The findings may further indicate that older children are more vulnerable to these multiple risk factors than younger children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Ego
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Peer Group
  • Psychology, Child*
  • Self Concept
  • Social Desirability