is the research objective. As convincing associations appear between specific parental strengths and deficits and specific child characteristics, we have the beginnings of answers, but one can not stop there. Although each of the environmental domains that we have sampled has associations with child properties, each domain considered singly is not a powerful predictor. We stand a far better chance of understanding effects of family on child by considering the interaction of domains within the family.
From the data we have reported here, the environments of children of depressed mothers are distinguishable from the environments of children of well mothers on each of the rearing dimensions: impairments with respect to affective relationships and control practices. Moreover, on dimensions not discussed in this report, such as verbal communications between mother and child, and response to stress, there are further differentiating features. Children of the two groups also show impairments in each of these developmental aspects. These sets of data begin to build a case for a configuration of variables that makes a risk context for a genetic predisposition. We need systematically to search for configurations of environmental dimensions that make critical differences for children, at given developmental stages.
The differences we have discussed in rearing environment and in child characteristics are group differences. But not all families in the depressed or well group fit the model of the significant group difference. Therefore, another phase of research is needed, which is often not pursued. Such a phase involves intensively studying, within families and within individuals, the patterns of deficits and strengths, to attempt to observe (discover) how competent or disordered behavior evolves in the individual family and child, how its development is nurtured by what patterned experiences. The traditional group differences approach via single variables should not be set aside, but it is not the best and only road to discovery of processes. Measurement over time at an individual level is essential.
Developmental theory and empirical and research tools that are now available make it possible to measure family environment and child development at levels of complexity and precision sufficient to materially advance our understanding of family influences on the individual.
This has been a case presentation of a research endeavor, an account of the rationale, planning, and part of the implementation of a study of child development in the contexts of well and depressed-parented families. The goal in formulating the study was to conceptualize and measure the rearing environment in a manner that would attempt to do reasonable justice to the complexity but comprehensibility of rearing environments; and would set aside the glib and