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Keywords:

  • depression;
  • marital conflict;
  • adjustment;
  • father–child relations

Abstract

Relations among parental depressive symptoms, overt and covert marital conflict, and child internalizing and externalizing symptoms were examined in a community sample of 235 couples and their children. Families were assessed once yearly for three years, starting when children were in kindergarten. Parents completed measures of depressive symptoms and children's internalizing and externalizing symptoms. Behavioral observations of marital conflict behaviors (insult, threat, pursuit, and defensiveness) and self report of covert negativity (feeling worry, sorry, worthless, and helpless) were assessed based on problem-solving interactions. Results indicated that fathers' greater covert negativity and mothers' overt destructive conflict behaviors served as intervening variables in the link between fathers' depressive symptoms and child internalizing symptoms, with modest support for the pathway through fathers' covert negativity found even after controlling for earlier levels of constructs. These findings support the role of marital conflict in the impact of fathers' depressive symptoms on child internalizing symptoms.