Ethnic Differences in the Effects of Parental Depression on Preschool Children's Socioemotional Functioning

  • Aikens N
  • Coleman C
  • Barbarin O
  • 6


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The present study describes the depressive symptomatology of 393 parents of prekin- dergarten children and assesses ethnic differences in the depression scores of these parents and their differential consequences for children’s social competence. Data are drawn from the National Center for Early Development and Learning (NCEDL) classroom study, a national, longitudinal study examining the quality and outcomes of prekindergarten programs operated in schools or under the direction of state and local educational agencies, and the supplemental NCEDL familial and social environments study. Analyses indicated that Latino parents were more likely than African-American and White parents to be depressed. However, as reported by both parents and teachers, behavioral outcomes for African-American children of parents with elevated depres- sive symptomatology were worse than children of their Latino and White counterparts. Interactions between ethnicity and depressive symptomatology emerged in the parent- child relationship, with African-American parents with elevated depressive symptoms reporting significantly greater levels of conflict in the parent–child relationship than their non-depressed counterparts. African-American parents with elevated depression scores were also less likely to be in marital relationships than their non-depressed counterparts. Among African-American families, parent–child conflict served as a mediator of the effects of parental depression on child outcomes. Implications for intervention are discussed.

Author-supplied keywords

  • ethnicity
  • parental depression

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  • Nikki L. Aikens

  • Cheri P. Coleman

  • Oscar a. Barbarin

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