UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Parent and adolescent depressive symptoms : the role of parent attributions Chen, Mandy Yao-Min; Johnston, Charlotte; Leve, Craig; Sheeber, Lisa B.


This study examined whether negative parental attributions for adolescent behaviour mediate the association between parental and adolescent depressive symptoms, and whether this relationship is moderated by adolescent gender. Mothers and fathers and 124 adolescents (76 girls and 48 boys; ages 14 to 18) participated. Adolescents were primarily Caucasian, and varied in the level of depressive symptoms (with 27% of the sample meeting diagnostic criteria for a current unipolar depressive disorder). Parents and adolescents completed measures of depressive symptoms, and participated in a videotaped problem-solving discussion. After the discussion, each parent watched the videotape and, at 20s intervals, offered attributions for their adolescent’s behaviour. Adolescent gender moderated the relation between parental attributions and adolescent depressive symptoms, with stronger associations for female adolescents. For both mothers and fathers, both parental depressive symptoms and negative attributions about the adolescent’s behaviour made unique contributions to the prediction of depressive symptoms in adolescent females. There also was evidence that negative attributions partially mediated the link between depressive symptoms in mothers and adolescent daughters. The results are interpreted as consistent with parenting as a partial mediator between parental and adolescent depressive symptoms, and suggest that adolescent girls may be particularly sensitive to parents’ negative interpretations of their behaviour.

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