Maternal depression has been associated with mothers' elevated reports of child problems. However, it is unclear the extent to which elevations in mother ratings reflect having a depression diagnosis, having any mental illness diagnosis, or having a diagnosis vs. symptom levels. As part of a NIMH-funded, longitudinal study of mothers with serious mental illness (N=379), we examined the relationship between mother-reported adolescent behavior problems (N=78) and maternal depression vs. other diagnoses, as well as the effects of depression diagnosis vs. symptom levels. Mothers were recruited from the public mental health system in an urban area, and are primarily African-American and low income. We found that maternal psychiatric symptoms made a unique and significant contribution to explaining the variance in mother-reported child problems, independent of controls (e.g., teacher reports and child demographics), while maternal diagnosis did not. Implications of findings are discussed.
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