Sensitive and Harsh Parenting of Infants: Associations with Maternal Depression, Generalized Anxiety, and Empathic Concern

Kristen D. Ojo, Ryan Snead, Lori Burrell, Sarah S. Crowne, Kay M.G. O’Neill, Anne K. Duggan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Many studies have identified associations between maternal depression and decreased quality of parenting. In addition to maternal depression, we examined associations of maternal generalized anxiety and empathy with quality of parenting. Mothers (N = 133) participating in a statewide home visiting implementation study completed baseline and follow-up interviews during which information on demographic and psychosocial characteristics were collected. As part of follow-up data collection, mothers were videotaped for fifteen minutes while playing with their infants, aged 4–13 months, using standardized toys. The videos were coded using qualitative rating scales. Multivariate linear regression was used to assess associations of maternal psychosocial well-being: depression, generalized anxiety, and empathy with two parenting outcomes: sensitive and harsh parenting. Depression and anxiety were negatively associated with sensitive parenting. Empathy was negatively associated with harsh parenting. At follow-up, mothers who screened positive for depression or anxiety exhibited less sensitive parenting than those who screened negative for both conditions. Mothers who screened positive for depression or anxiety at baseline but screened negative at follow-up, had similar sensitive parenting scores to mothers who screened negative at both time points. These findings demonstrate the potential benefits of responding effectively to maternal depression and anxiety and the need for programs to identify and respond to maternal depression and anxiety on a continuing basis, not just at enrollment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2925-2937
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Volume30
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Home Visiting
  • Maternal anxiety
  • Maternal depression
  • Maternal empathy
  • Parent–child interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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