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Examining Relations Between Parent and Child Psychopathology in Children with ADHD: Do Parent Cognitions Matter?

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Abstract

Among children with ADHD, parental psychopathology has well-documented, adverse effects on children’s externalizing behavior, yet the underlying predictors of this relation remain understudied. One promising yet untested explanation for the intergenerational transmission of psychopathology is parental cognitive errors (PCEs), which reflect overly negative, stable, and helpless beliefs that parents hold toward their child’s behavior and their own parenting practices. The present investigation examines whether PCEs and parenting behaviors (inconsistent discipline, corporal punishment, and positive parenting) explain the relation between symptoms of parental psychopathology (parental ADHD and depression/anxiety) and child externalizing behaviors in families of children with ADHD (N = 199, ages 7–11). A similar pattern emerged regardless of the type of parental psychopathology examined. PCEs and inconsistent discipline/corporal punishment significantly and collectively accounted for the relation between parental psychopathology symptoms and child externalizing behaviors. No relations were found in the models that examined positive parenting practices. The current findings suggest that addressing parental psychopathology during behavioral parenting interventions, with a particular emphasis on targeting PCEs and their impact on inconsistent discipline and corporal punishment, may hold promise for optimizing treatment response for children with ADHD.

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Notes

  1. Neither the pattern nor interpretation of our findings changed when measures were considered independently or as a composite.

  2. This approach was chosen over other measures of effect size for several reasons. First, completely standardized effect sizes are not scale bound; in comparison, partially standardized effect sizes retain the original units of X and therefore complicate interpretation. Additionally, other effect size metrics, such as effect ratios, are unstable from sample to sample and may provide erroneous results when paths have differing signs (Hayes, 2013).

  3. There are several reasons why total effects may be nonsignificant while indirect effects remain significant, such as an unmeasured suppressor variable (Rucker et al., 2011) or opposing path signs (Zhao, Lynch, & Chen, 2010). Because mediation may be present without significant total or direct effects, the field has moved away from emphasizing these effects as a requirement for mediation (Hayes, 2009; MacKinnon et al., 2000; Shrout & Bolger, 2002; Zhao et al., 2010) and towards evaluating the magnitude of indirect effects instead (Rucker et al., 2011).

  4. 35% (N = 67) of parents had an average T score exceeding 1 SD above the mean (T > 60) on the CAARS/ASR Composite, while 27% (N = 51) exhibited T scores above 60 on the Depression/Anxiety subscale of the ASR. 21% (N = 40) of parents had an average T score exceeding the clinical cutoff (T > 65) on the CAARS/ASR Composite, while 18% (N = 34) exhibited T scores above 65 on the Depression/Anxiety subscale of the ASR.

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This research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grant MH077671 (PI: Pfiffner).

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Correspondence to Lauren M. Friedman.

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Gabrielle Fabrikant-Abzug, Lauren M. Friedman and Linda J. Pfiffner declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Fabrikant-Abzug, G., Friedman, L.M. & Pfiffner, L.J. Examining Relations Between Parent and Child Psychopathology in Children with ADHD: Do Parent Cognitions Matter?. J Psychopathol Behav Assess 45, 75–87 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10862-023-10023-1

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