Academic journal article Family Relations

Parent-Adolescent Relationship Quality as an Intervening Variable on Adolescent Outcomes among Families at Risk: Dyadic Analyses

Academic journal article Family Relations

Parent-Adolescent Relationship Quality as an Intervening Variable on Adolescent Outcomes among Families at Risk: Dyadic Analyses

Article excerpt

Adolescents who live in family contexts at risk for maltreatment demonstrate high rates of adverse mental health concerns (Mills, 2013). There are many factors associated with maltreatment risk. Parental mental health, and maternal depression in particular, is a pervasive issue associated with risk for maltreatment (e.g., Dubowitz et al., 2011; Windham et al., 2004). Further, the association between maternal depressive symptoms and adolescent problem behaviors also is well established (e.g., Brenning, Soenens, Braet, & Bal, 2012; Lizardi, Klein, & Shankman, 2004). Less is known, however, about factors that intervene in the relationship between maternal depression and adolescent mental health concerns (Brennan, Brocque, & Hammen, 2003), particularly among families at risk for child maltreatment. Scholars suggest positive family interactions may protect adolescents of high-risk family contexts from developing negative outcomes (Houltberg, Henry, & Morris, 2012). As such, it is important to determine the extent to which positive mother-adolescent relationship quality intervenes in the association between maternal depressive symptoms and adolescent problem behaviors among families at risk for child maltreatment.

There is a clear link between maternal depression and adolescent mental health concerns (e.g., Brenning et al., 2012; Lizardi et al., 2004). Heritability, innate dysfunctional neuroregulatory mechanisms, and family processes such as parent-child relationship quality are key factors through which the transmission of mental health concerns from mothers to children may occur (Goodman, 2007). Research testing the parent-adolescent relationship as a pathway through which maternal depression influences adolescent outcomes, however, is scarce (Brennan et al., 2003). This is unfortunate because family processes, as opposed to heredity and innate mechanisms, are characteristics that can be changed.

Maternal depression has consistently been found to be associated with externalizing (Grant et al., 2000; Lizardi et al., 2004; Pugh & Farrell, 2012; van der Molen, Hipwell, Vermeiren, & Loeber, 2012) and internalizing (Boyd, Diamond, & Ten Have, 2011; Brenning et al., 2012; Jones, Beach, & Forehand, 2001; Lizardi et al., 2004) problem behaviors among adolescents. Mothers specifically have been of empirical focus for a number of reasons: rates of depression are higher among women compared to men, rates of mental health concerns of adolescents of mothers with depression are significantly higher than same age adolescents of mothers who are not depressed, and adolescent mental health concerns are more strongly associated with maternal compared to paternal depression (Goodman, 2007). Clearly, however, not all adolescents of mothers who are depressed exhibit poor mental health. Thus, it is important to identify pathways that contribute to differential outcomes among adolescents of parents with known risks (Brennan et al., 2003).

Parent-Adolescent Relationship as an Intervening Factor

Research supports an association between maternal depressive symptoms and lower parent-adolescent relationship quality (Goodman, 2007). For example, in a study involving a community sample of adolescents, though families generally tended to be happy and well-functioning, higher levels of maternal depressive symptoms predicted stress in the mother-adolescent relationship 12 months later (Jones et al., 2001). Additionally, results from a meta-analysis indicated mothers with depressive symptoms demonstrated more hostility toward and disengagement from their children (Lovejoy, Gracyk, O'Hare, & Neuman, 2000).

Among community samples, there also is strong support for the link between parent- adolescent relationship quality and adolescent externalizing and internalizing outcomes. Specifically, high quality parent-adolescent relationships are associated with lower levels of adolescent mental health concerns (Manders, Scholte, Janssens, & De Bryuyn, 2006). …

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