Parental Depressive Symptoms and Children's Emotional Security

Doctoral Dissertation


Children derive a sense of security from multiple dimensions of family functioning, including parent-child and marital relations. Their sense of security is based on their confidence in parents’ abilities to meet children’s needs and provide a stable environment, and is undermined by poor parenting skills and marital conflict. Because parental depressive symptoms are associated with parenting and marital problems, this study hypothesized that parental depressive symptoms would predict children’s emotional insecurity about parent-child relations (attachment insecurity) and insecurity about marital relations, leading to greater emotional and behavioral problems. Data were drawn from three waves of a larger community study of families, and included mother and father report of depressive symptoms, parenting practices, marital conflict, children’s emotional security, and children’s emotional and behavioral problems. Results of structural equation models indicated that mothers’ and fathers’ depressive symptoms predicted decreased parental warmth and greater marital conflict one year later. Furthermore, children’s attachment insecurity served as a mediator of relations between fathers’ depressive symptoms and children’s adjustment problems, while children’s insecurity about marital relations served as a mediator of relations between mothers’ and fathers’ depressive symptoms and children’s adjustment problems. When considered together, a similar pattern of results was obtained. These results indicate that (1) children’s emotional security about multiple family relationships may serve as important explanatory processes for the link between parental depressive symptoms and children’s maladjustment; (2) the marital relationship was somewhat more sensitive to parental depressive symptoms, undermining children’s sense of security about the marital relationship; and (3) fathers’ depressive symptoms were more disruptive to children’s emotional security than mothers’ symptoms.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-04202006-110309

Author Peggy Sue Keller
Advisor E. Mark Cummings
Contributor E. Mark Cummings, Committee Chair
Contributor Julie Braungart-Rieker, Committee Member
Contributor David Smith, Committee Member
Contributor Dawn Gondoli, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Psychology
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2006-04-10

Submission Date 2006-04-20
  • United States of America

  • Child Development

  • Depression

  • Emotional Security

  • Family

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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