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Heterogeneous Effects of Depression on Parenting Competence and Child Behavior Among Families Living in Poverty


This study examined how depression and psychosocial protective factors, such as self-efficacy and conscientiousness, were related to parenting competence and child behavior among families living in poverty. The sample included 238 families (37% White, 25% Black, 19% Latinx, 17% Multiracial, and 2% Asian; 42% of parents reporting clinically significant symptoms of depression) with young children (mean age = 31 months, 51% female). Latent profile analysis identified five distinct subgroups of parents who differed on levels of depression and psychosocial protective factors. A small group of parents who had high levels of depression and low levels of protective factors displayed the least parenting competence and had children with lower levels of adjustment. At the same time, parents in two other profiles had high levels of depression, but moderate or high levels of protective factors, and displayed average parenting competence and had children who displayed average or above average levels of adjustment. In this study, depression appeared less predictive of parenting competence and child behavior than the psychosocial protective factors. This study suggests that many parents, despite having depression and living in poverty, exhibit psychosocial protective factors that are associated with high levels of parenting competence and rear children who are doing well.

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This research was supported by a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R01HD081361) with supplemental funding from the Center for Child and Family Well-Being at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Correspondence to Christina N. Kim.

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This study was approved by the Institutional Review Boards of University of Wisconsin-Madison and Pennsylvania State University.

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All the procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of University of New Hampshire IRB and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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All the parents provided written consent for their children and themselves to participate.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Kim, C.N., Nix, R.L., Gill, S. et al. Heterogeneous Effects of Depression on Parenting Competence and Child Behavior Among Families Living in Poverty. Prev Sci (2022).

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  • Parenting
  • Depression
  • Protective factors
  • Poverty
  • Toddlers
  • Latent profile analysis