Academic journal article Merrill-Palmer Quarterly

Maternal Depressive Symptoms and Child Behavior Problems among Latina Adolescent Mothers: The Buffering Effect of Mother-Reported Partner Child Care Involvement

Academic journal article Merrill-Palmer Quarterly

Maternal Depressive Symptoms and Child Behavior Problems among Latina Adolescent Mothers: The Buffering Effect of Mother-Reported Partner Child Care Involvement

Article excerpt

We examined the relations between maternal depressive symptoms and child internalizing and externalizing problems in a sample of 125 adolescent Latina mothers (primarily Puerto Rican) and their toddlers. We also tested the influence of mother-reported partner child care involvement on child behavior problems and explored mother-reported partner characteristics that related to this involvement. Results suggested that maternal depressive symptoms related to child internalizing and externalizing problems when accounting for contextual risk factors. Importantly, these symptoms mediated the link between life stress and child behavior problems. Mother-reported partner child care interacted with maternal depressive symptoms for internalizing, not externalizing, problems. Specifically, depressive symptoms related less strongly to internalizing problems at higher levels of partner child care than at lower levels. Participants with younger partners, coresiding partners and in longer romantic relationships reported higher partner child care involvement. Results are discussed considering implications for future research and interventions for mothers, their children, and their partners.

Adolescent mothers face significant challenges, and both their own and their children's functioning are often compromised (Grau, Wilson, Weiler, Castellanos, & Duran, 2012). In addition to coming from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, adolescents who become mothers are more likely to have histories of stressful life events, lower cognitive attainment, and poorer school performance than their nonparenting peers (Hoffman & Maynard, 2008). Compared to adult mothers, adolescent mothers have a higher likelihood of being single and of raising their children in poverty (K. A. Moore, Hofferth, Wertheimer, Waite, & Caldwell, 1981).

Consistently, several studies have found relatively high rates of depressive symptoms in samples of adolescent mothers (Colletta, 1983; Leadbeater, Bishop, & Raver, 1996; Nadeem, Whaley, & Anthony, 2006). Similarly, children of adolescent mothers are at risk for emotional and behavior problems, which, when present, begin to appear in their second year of life and become more pronounced throughout development (Brooks-Gunn & Furstenberg, 1986). Following the normative parenting literature that highlights the impact of maternal depression on child development (Zahn-Waxier, Duggal, & Gruber, 2002), research on adolescent mothers has focused on this link. A few studies documented significant associations (e.g., Hubbs-Tait, Osofsky, Hann, & Culp, 1994). The adolescent literature has also linked children's emotional and behavior problems to the environmental risk factors present in the lives of young mothers (M. R. Moore & Brooks-Gunn, 2002).

However, this research has seldom included Latina adolescents, and little is known about the link between maternal depressive symptoms and children's behavior problems in this population or the factors that may protect these young families. This is of concern because Latina adolescents have the highest birthrate of any group within the United States (Martin et al., 2010) and are overrepresented among the poor (Cauce & Domenech-Rodriguez, 2002), placing them at significant risk for compromised functioning. Our first goal was to examine the association between maternal depressive symptoms and child internalizing and externalizing problems in Latina adolescent mothers and their toddlers. We used Contreras and colleagues' conceptual model of the determinants of parenting competence among Latina adolescent mothers (Contreras, Narang, Ikhlas, & Teichman, 2002) to guide our study. Following the model's emphasis on accounting for contextual stressors when examining maternal and child adjustment, we considered the role of maternal depression in conjunction with environmental risk factors that may influence the adolescents' and their children's adjustment. …

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