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The relationship of stress and depressed mood to maternal reactions Krech, Kathryn H.


Models of parenting are becoming increasingly complex. The domain has evolved from a simple parent behavior - child behavior paradigm to one which considers systemic influences. Contextual variables, such as life stress and depressed mood, are beginning to receive much attention in the literature. Also, researchers have noted the importance of measuring parent cognition (i.e., perceptions) and affect in addition to acquiring information regarding parent behavior. The present study was designed to explore the role played by two levels of stress; global life events and daily hassles, and by depressed mood, in determining maternal affective, behavioral and cognitive responses to child behavior. A community sample of 66 single mothers participated in the study. Mothers read 12 descriptions of child behavior, each embedded in one of three contexts of stress (i.e., global life event context, daily hassles context, no stress context). The sample was divided into three groups (n=22) on the basis of scores on a standard mood instrument. Only those mothers who received scores in the two extreme groups (i.e., depressed mood and nondepressed mood) were included in the main analyses. A two-way repeated measures MANOVA revealed a main effect for stress, but not for mood, when the BDI was used to create the groups. When the CES-D was utilized, a main effect for stress, and for mood, was detected. No significant stress by mood interaction was observed. Follow-up univariate ANOVAS and multiple comparision tests revealed that the daily hassles context had a greater influence on maternal responses to child behavior than did the global life events context. That is, mothers were more affectively aroused, indicated a more intense anticipated behavioral reaction and perceived the child behavior to be more deviant, in the daily hassles condition compared to the other conditions. In addition, mothers who reported more depressed mood indicated greater affective responsiveness to the child behavior vignettes than mothers who did not report depressed mood. The results are discussed in terms of empirical and applied implications.

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