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Maternal depression and co-occurring antisocial behaviour: testing maternal hostility and warmth as mediators of risk for offspring psychopathology

Authors

  • Ruth Sellers,

    1. Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, Cardiff, Wales, UK
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  • Gordon T. Harold,

    1. School of Psychology, Andrew and Virginia Rudd Centre for Adoption Research and Practice, University of Sussex, Brighton Sussex, UK
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  • Kit Elam,

    1. School of Psychology, College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology University of Leicester, Leicester, Leicestershire, USA
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  • Kimberly A. Rhoades,

    1. Oregon Social Learning Centre, Eugene OR, USA
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  • Robert Potter,

    1. Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, Cardiff, Wales, UK
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  • Becky Mars,

    1. Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, Cardiff, Wales, UK
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  • Nick Craddock,

    1. Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, Cardiff, Wales, UK
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  • Anita Thapar,

    1. Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, Cardiff, Wales, UK
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  • Stephan Collishaw

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, Cardiff, Wales, UK
    • Correspondence

      Stephan Collishaw, Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Section, Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences, School of Medicine, Cardiff, UK; Email: collishaws@cf.ac.uk

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  • Conflict of interests: No conflicts of interest declared.

Abstract

Background

Disruption in the parent–child relationship is a commonly hypothesized risk factor through which maternal depression may increase risk for offspring psychopathology. However, maternal depression is commonly accompanied by other psychopathology, including antisocial behaviour. Few studies have examined the role of co-occurring psychopathology in depressed mothers. Using a longitudinal study of offspring of mothers with recurrent depression, we aimed to test whether maternal warmth/hostility mediated links between maternal depression severity and child outcomes, and how far direct and indirect pathways were robust to controls for co-occurring maternal antisocial behaviour.

Methods

Mothers with a history of recurrent major depressive disorder and their adolescent offspring (9–17 years at baseline) were assessed three times between 2007 and 2010. Mothers completed questionnaires assessing their own depression severity and antisocial behaviour at Time 1 (T1). The parent–child relationship was assessed using parent-rated questionnaire and interviewer-rated 5-min speech sample at Time 2 (T2). Offspring symptoms of depression and disruptive behaviours were assessed using the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Assessment at Time 3 (T3).

Results

Maternal hostility and warmth, respectively, mediated the association between maternal depression severity and risk for offspring psychopathology. However, the effects were attenuated when maternal antisocial behaviour was included in the analysis. In tests of the full theoretical model, maternal antisocial behaviour predicted both maternal hostility and low warmth, maternal hostility predicted offspring disruptive behaviour disorder symptoms, but not depression, and maternal warmth was not associated with either child outcome.

Conclusions

Parenting interventions aimed at reducing hostility may be beneficial for preventing or reducing adolescent disruptive behaviours in offspring of depressed mothers, especially when depressed mothers report co-occurring antisocial behaviour.

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