Skip to main content
Log in

Comparisons of children of depressed and nondepressed parents: A social-environmental perspective

  • Published:
Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Several lines of evidence indicate that a parent's depression may be a significant health and adaptational risk factor for his or her children. In a controlled comparison, children of 133 depressed parents had significantly more symptoms of emotional, somatic, and behavioral impairment than did children of 135 nondepressed parents. Additional results suggest that the more negative milieu found among families of depressed parents was a mediator of the effects of parental depression. A social-environmental perspective helped to identify aspects of parents' functioning, family stressors, and resources that were related to children's health. Variations in these stressors and resources were strongly related to the probability of disturbance among children of depressed parents.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

Reference note

  1. Moos, R. H., Cronkite, R. C., Billings, A. G., & Finney, J. W.The health and daily living form manual. Available from the Social Ecology Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94035.

References

  1. Anthony, E. J., & Koupernick, C.The child in his family: Children at psychiatric risk. New York: Wiley, 1974.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Billings, A. G., & Moos, R. H. Family environments and adaptation: A clinically applicable typology.American Journal of Family Therapy, 1982,10, 26–38. (a)

    Google Scholar 

  3. Billings, A. G., & Moos, R. H. Work stress and the stress-buffering roles of work and family resources.Journal of Occupational Behavior, 1982,3, 215–232. (b)

    Google Scholar 

  4. Billings, A. G., & Moos, R. H. Psychosocial theory and research on depression: An integrative framework and review.Clinical Psychology Review, 1982,2, 213–237. (c)

    Google Scholar 

  5. Billings, A. G., & Moos, R. H. Psychosocial processes of recovery among alcoholics and their families: Implications for clinicians and program evaluators.Addictive Behaviors, in press.

  6. Billings, A. G., Cronkite, R. C., & Moos, R. H. Social-environmental factors in unipolar depression: Comparisons of depressed patients and nondepressed controls.Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1983,92, 119–133.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Coates, D., & Wortman, C. B. Depression maintenance and interpersonal control. In A. Baum & J. E. Singer (Eds.),Advances in environmental psychology (Vol. 2). Hillsdale, New Jersey: Erlbaum, 1980.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Cohler, B. J., Grunebaum, H. U., Kauffman, C., & Gallant, D. Disturbance of attention among schizophrenic, depressed, and well mothers and their young children.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 1976.

  9. Conners, C. K., Himmelhoch, J., Goyette, C. H., Ulrich, R., & Neil, J. F. Children of parents with affective illness.Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 1979,18, 600–607.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Cooper, S. F., Leach, C., Storer, D., & Tonge, W. L. The children of psychiatric patients: Clinical findings.British Journal of Psychiatry, 1977,131, 514–522.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Crook, T., Raskin, A., & Elliot, J. Parent-child relationships and adult depression.Child Development, 1981,52, 950–957.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Cytryn, L., & McKnew, D. H. Proposed classification of childhood depression.American Journal of Psychiatry, 1972,129, 149–155.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Cytryn, L., McKnew, D. H., Bartko, J. J., Lamour, M., & Hamovit, J. Offspring of patients with affective disorders II.Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, in press.

  14. Duncan, O. D. A socioeconomic index for all occupations. In A. J. Reiss (Ed.),Occupations and social status. New York: Free Press, 1961.

    Google Scholar 

  15. El-Guebaly, N., Offord, D. R., Sullivan, K. T., & Lynch, G. W. Psychosocial adjustment of the offspring of psychiatric inpatients: The effect of alcoholic, depressive and schizophrenic parentage.Canadian Psychiatric Association Journal, 1978,23, 281–290.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Emery, R., Weintraub, S., & Neale, J. M. Effects of marital discord on the school behavior of children of schizophrenic, affectively disordered, and normal parents.Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 1982,10, 215–228.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Grunebaum, H. U., Cohler, B. J., Kauffman, C., & Gallant, D. H. Children of depressed and schizophrenic mothers.Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 1978,8, 219–228.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Harder, D., Kokes, R., Fisher, L., & Strauss, J. Child competence and psychiatric risk.Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 1980,168, 343–347.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Herjanic, B., Herjanic, M., Brown, F., & Wheatt, T. Are children reliable reporters?Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 1975,3, 41–48.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Holahan, C. J., & Moos, R. H. Social support and psychological distress: A longitudinal analysis.Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1981,49, 365–370.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Jacobsori, S., Fashman, J., & DiMascio, A. Deprivation in the childhood of depressed women.Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 1975,166, 5–14.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Kessler, R., & Cleary, R. Social class and psychological distress.American Sociological Review, 1980,45, 463–478.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Kuyler, P. L., Rosenthal, L., Igel, G., Dunner, D. L., & Fieve, R. R. Psychopathology among children of manic depressive patients.Biological Psychiatry, 1980,15, 589–597.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Langner, T. S. A twenty-two item screening score of psychiatric symptoms indicating impairment.Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 1962,3, 269–276.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Lindenthal, J. J., & Meyers, J. K. The New Haven longitudinal study. In I. G. Sarason & C. D. Spielberger (Eds.),Stress and anxiety (Vol. 6). Washington D.C.: Hemisphere, 1979.

    Google Scholar 

  26. McKnew, D. H., Cytryn, L., Efron, A. M., Gershon, E. S., & Bunney, W. E. Offspring of patients with affective disorders.British Journal of Psychiatry, 1979,134, 148–151.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Moos, R. H.Work environment scale manual. Palo Alto: Consulting Psychologists Press, 1981.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Moos, R. H., & Billings, A. G. Conceptualizing and measuring coping resources and processes. In L. Goldberger & S. Breznitz (Eds.),Handbook of stress: Theoretical and clinical aspects. New York: Macmillan, 1982.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Moos, R. H., & Moos, B. S.Family environment scale manual. Palo Alto: Consulting Psychologists Press, 1981.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Moos, R. H., Clayton, J., & Max, W.The social climate scales: An annotated bibliography. Palo Alto: Consulting Psychologists Press, 1979.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Munro, A. Some familial and social factors in depressive illness.British Journal of Psychiatry, 1966,112, 429–441.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Orvaschel, H. Maternal depression and child dysfunction: Children at risk. In B. Lahey & A. Kazdin (Eds.),Advances in clinical child psychology (Vol. 6). New York: Plenum, 1983.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Orvaschel, H., Weissman, M., & Kidd, K. K. Children and depression: The children of depressed parents, the childhood of depressed patients, depression in children.Journal of Affective Disorders, 1980,2, 1–16.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Orvaschel, H., Weissman, M. M., Padian, N., & Lowe, P. L. Assessing psychopathology in children of psychiatrically disturbed parents: A pilot study.Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 1981,20, 112–122.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Pearlin, L. I., & Johnson, J. Marital status, life strains, and depression.American Sociological Review, 1977,42, 704–715.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Phillips, I. Childhood depression: Interpersonal interactions and depressive phenomena.American Journal of Psychiatry, 1979,136, 511–515.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Poznanski, E., & Zrull, J. P. Childhood depression.Archives of General Psychiatry, 1970,23, 8–15.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Poznanski, E. O., Krahenbuhl, V., & Zrull, J. P. Childhood depression: A longitudinal perspective.Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 1976,15, 491–501.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Puig-Antich, J., Blau, S., Marz, N., Greenhill, L. L., & Chamber, W. Prepubertal major depressive disorders: A pilot study.Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 1978,17, 695–707.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Richman, N. Depression in mothers of preschool children.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 1976,17, 75–78.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Rolf, J. E., & Garmezy, N. The school performance of children vulnerable to behavior pathology. In D. F. Ricks, T. Alexander, & M. Roff (Eds.),Life history research in psychopathology (Vol. 3). Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 1974.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Sandler, I. N., & Block, M. Life stress and maladaptation of children.American Journal of Community Psychology, 1979,7, 425–440.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Schulterbrandt, J. G., & Raskin, A.Depression in children: Diagnosis, treatment and conceptual models. New York: Raven Press, 1977.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Spanier, G. B. Measuring dyadic adjustment: New scales for assessing the quality of marital and similar dyads.Journal of Marriage and the Family, 1976,38, 15–28.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Spitzer, R. H., Endicott, J., & Robins, E. Preliminary report of the reliability of Research Diagnostic Criteria applied to psychiatric case records. In A. Sudilovsky, S. Gershan, & B. Beer (Eds.),Predictability in psychopharmacology: Preclinical and clinical correlations. New York: Raven Press, 1975.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Spitzer, R. L., Endicott, J., & Robins, E. Research Diagnostic Criteria: Rationale and reliability.Archives of General Psychiatry, 1978,35, 773–782.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Stevens, G., & Featherman, D. L. A revised Socioeconomic Index of Occupational Status.Social Science Research, 1981,10, 364–395.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Weinberg, W. A., Rutman, J., Sullivan, L., Penick, E. C., & Dietz, S. G. Depression in children referred to an educational diagnostic center: Diagnosis and treatment.Journal of Pediatrics, 1973,83, 1065–1072.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Weintraub, S., Neale, J. M., & Liebert, D. E. Teacher ratings of children vulnerable to psychopathology.American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 1975,45, 839–845.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Weissman, M. M., & Myers, J. Affective disorders in a U.S. urban community: The use of Research Diagnostic Criteria in an epidemiological survey.Archives of General Psychiatry, 1978,35, 1304–1311.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Weissman, M. M., Paykel, E. S., & Klerman, G. L. The depressed woman as a mother.Social Psychiatry, 1972,7, 98–108.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Welner, Z., Welner, A., McCrary, M. D., & Leonard, M. Psychopathology in children of inpatients with depression: A controlled study.Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 1977,164, 408–413.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Additional information

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Sarah Buxton, Marlene Koltin, Ruth Lederman, Roger Mitchell, and Deborah Shields in data collection and of Dani Lawler in data collection and analysis. We thank Susan Spinrad for her help in preparing this article. This work was supported in part by Veterans Administration Medical Research funds and NIAAA Grant AA02863.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Billings, A.G., Moos, R.H. Comparisons of children of depressed and nondepressed parents: A social-environmental perspective. J Abnorm Child Psychol 11, 463–485 (1983). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00917076

Download citation

  • Revised:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00917076

Keywords

Navigation