Risk factors, maternal depression, and mother -child interactions in the national Early Head Start population

Kristin Kolozian, Pace University


Research shows that mother, child, and home characteristics have direct and indirect effects on the quality of the mother-child interactions. Risk factors, such as maternal depression, lack of family resources, living in poverty, being a single parent, receiving minimal or no support from one's partner, or having a low birthweight baby, can negatively impact the quality of mother-child interactions and prevent parents from having high quality interactions with their children. Mothers with depression often display negative parenting styles, less positive affect, emotional insensitivity, and less responsiveness towards their children. This doctoral project examined the relationships between risk factors (parent, child, and home), maternal depression, and mother-child interactions, using data from approximately 3,000 families who participated in a nationwide evaluation of Early Head Start. It was hypothesized that the following risk factors would be related, in the expected directions, to maternal depression and mother-child interactions: birthweight, living arrangement, welfare participation, employment status, and family resources. It was also predicted that higher maternal depression would predict lower positive mother-child interactions and higher negative mother-child interactions. Finally, it was hypothesized that maternal depression would moderate the relationship between risk factors and positive mother-child interactions. The following measures were used: the Family Resource Scale (FRS), the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale-Short Form (CESD-SF), Home Observation Measurement of the Environment-Short Form (HOME-SF), and videotaped play sessions between mothers and children. Positive (supportiveness and warmth) and negative (intrusiveness, detachment, negative regard, and harshness) indices of mother-child interactions were assessed. Correlations, t-tests, and hierarchical multiple regressions were conducted to examine these relationships. Results revealed that mothers who reported higher levels of depression were more likely to have fewer family resources and have a history of receiving welfare benefits. Contrary to expectations, birthweight, living arrangements, and employment status were not related to maternal depression. Welfare participation was a strong predictor of mother-child interactions, with mothers who received welfare benefits showing less warmth and supportiveness and greater detachment, intrusiveness, and negative regard. Mothers who had greater family resources demonstrated greater warmth and supportiveness and lower intrusiveness. Mothers of low birthweight children were less likely to show supportive behaviors and more likely to display intrusiveness. Mothers who were employed or in a job-training program were more likely to display intrusiveness and negative regard during play. Living arrangements was not related to either positive or negative maternal behaviors. Maternal depression was significantly related to higher intrusiveness, negative regard, and harshness, and lower warmth. In terms of moderating relationships, the effects of having a low birthweight child on maternal warmth were greater for mothers who reported higher levels of depression compared to mothers who were not depressed. Program status, age of mother, maternal education, welfare participation, being White/Caucasian vs. Black/African American or Other, and English as primary language were strong predictors of positive maternal behaviors. Implications for policy and early interventions are presented.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Preschool education|Psychotherapy

Recommended Citation

Kolozian, Kristin, "Risk factors, maternal depression, and mother -child interactions in the national Early Head Start population" (2007). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3257528.



Remote User: Click Here to Login (must have Pace University remote login ID and password. Once logged in, click on the View More link above)