Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 345–357 | Cite as

Offspring Personality Mediates the Association between Maternal Depression and Childhood Psychopathology

  • Timothy A. AllenEmail author
  • Assaf Oshri
  • Fred A. Rogosch
  • Sheree L. Toth
  • Dante Cicchetti


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.


Maternal depression Personality Development Psychopathology 



This research was supported through a grant (R01MH45027) from the National Institute of Mental Health. We thank the mothers and children who participated in this research and the many research assistants who assisted with data collection.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10802_2018_453_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 14 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Addiction and Mental HealthCampbell Family Mental Health Research InstituteTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of Human Development and Family ScienceUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  3. 3.Mt. Hope Family CenterUniversity of RochesterRochesterUSA
  4. 4.Institute of Child DevelopmentUniversity of Minnesota-Twin CitiesMinneapolisUSA

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