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How Do Parent-Child Interactions Predict and Maintain Depression in Childhood and Adolescence? A Critical Review of the Literature

[ Vol. 6 , Issue. 2 ]


Rosanna Chapman, Monika Parkinson and Sarah Halligan   Pages 100 - 115 ( 16 )


Background and Objective: Negative parent-child interaction patterns have been linked to youth depression, with a causal influence being assumed. However, the majority of empirical studies examining this issue have used self-report methods to assess parent-child relationships, which cannot capture the temporal dynamics of dyadic interactions and may be subject to reporting bias. This review considers the association between parent-child interactions and youth depression with a specific focus on observational methodology.

Method: A literature search was conducted including studies that investigated the association between observed parent-child interactions and youth depressive symptomology. Literature was obtained using database searches, citation searches and screening of recent reviews.

Results and Conclusion: Maternal disengagement, reduced adolescent autonomy granting, adolescent maladaptive emotion regulation, parental suppression of adolescent positivity and incongruent parent-child communication styles were relatively consistently related to youth depression. Nonetheless, there were conflicting findings and several studies demonstrated little or no contribution of parent-child interaction factors to youth depression. Overall, the evidence suggests that causal influences are likely to be modest. The majority of studies relate to maternal versus paternal interactions. Furthermore, the factors that mediate the association between parent-child interactions and youth depression remain largely unknown. Implications for future research and clinical practice are discussed.


Adolescence, childhood, depression, observations, parent-child interactions.


School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, Reading, RG6 6AL

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