Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 123–136 | Cite as

Intergenerational Transmission of Depressive Symptoms: The Role of Parental Negative Perceptions and Behaviors

  • Yiji WangEmail author
Original Article


This study examined parental proximal processes involving in the intergenerational transmission of depressive symptoms from parents to their children. Extant literature has predominantly focused on maternal depressive symptoms. Yet, the mechanisms that may underlie the transmission of paternal depressive symptoms is less often studied. Participants were Chinese parents of first-graders (N = 2282). Results of structural equation modeling suggested that maternal and paternal depressive symptoms may be transmitted to their children through differential processes. Depressive symptoms in mothers, but not in fathers, were associated with their negatively-biased perceptions and dysfunctional parenting practices, which then predicted depressive symptoms in children. Moreover, mothers’ depressive symptoms were associated with children’s depressive symptoms regardless of child gender, whereas fathers’ depressive symptoms were associated with boys’, but not girls’, depressive symptoms. Findings expand the understandings on parental processes in the intergenerational transmission of depressive symptoms in families, the role of paternal depressive symptoms in promoting children’s depressive symptoms, and who may be at particular risks for psychopathology in the face of parental depressive symptoms.


Intergenerational transmission of depressive symptoms Parental negative perceptions Parenting practices Maternal depressive symptoms Paternal depressive symptoms 



This work was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31600900), China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2016M590330), Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (2017ECNU-HWFW022), and NYU-ECNU Institute for Social Development at NYU Shanghai awarded to Yiji Wang.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Psychology and Cognitive ScienceEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina

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