Parental depressive symptoms and parent-child attachment: An examination of change after maternal and paternal participation in an attachment-based parenting intervention

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
The presence of parental depressive symptoms has been consistently found to represent an important risk factor for the development of insecure parent-child attachment. As such, these symptoms stand as possible therapeutic targets of interventions designed to enhance children's socioemotional well-being, particularly parenting interventions. This is the case even though most parenting interventions are not designed to directly affect change on parents' depressive symptomatology. With this backdrop in mind, this study aimed at investigating whether change of parental depressive symptoms occurs within the context of an attachment-based parenting intervention, Connect. As part of this investigation, the reciprocal association between change in parental depressive symptoms and parent-child attachment was studied, as it was hypothesized that changes in one of these constructs influenced change in the other. In addition, predictors of change of parental depressive symptoms and parent-child attachment were investigated to provide a clearer picture of the factors that affect change of these two processes within Connect. A sample of 713 birth parents (83.17% mothers) who participated in Connect provided consent for this study and provided reports on their own depressive symptoms and the quality of the attachment relationship with their children. Results showed statistically significant reductions in maternal but not paternal depressive symptoms from pre-intervention levels to 18-months follow-up. In addition, results provided evidence for the reciprocal association between maternal depressive symptoms and avoidant parent-child attachment. Lower family income predicted higher baseline maternal depressive symptoms and higher baseline parent-child anxious attachment. Empirical and clinical implications of these findings are presented.
84 pages.
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Thesis advisor: Moretti, Marlene
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