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Maternal Depression, Children’s Attachment Security, and Representational Development: An Organizational Perspective


  • This research was supported through a grant (MH45027) from the National Institute of Mental Health. We thank the mothers and children who participated in this research and the many research assistants who assisted with data collection. In particular, we thank Angeline Maughan and Mary Spagnola for their assistance with coding.

concerning this article should be addressed to Sheree L. Toth, Mt. Hope Family Center, University of Rochester, 187 Edinburgh Street, Rochester, NY 14608. Electronic mail may be sent to


Relations among maternal depression, child attachment, and children’s representations of parents and self were examined. Participants included toddlers and their mothers with a history of major depressive disorder (n= 63) or no history of mental disorder (n= 68). Attachment was assessed at 20 and 36 months and representations of parents and self were assessed at 36 and 48 months. Depressive symptoms were assessed at all 3 time points. While early-occurring maternal depression had a negative impact on children’s negative and positive representations of parents, attachment security mediated the relation between depressive symptoms and negative representations. Attachment security served as an intervening variable between maternal depression and changes in children’s negative representations of self. Implications for prevention are highlighted.

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