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Labored Love: Examining the Link Between Maternal Depression and Parenting Behaviors


  • Kristin Turney

    (University of Michigan)


Theoretical perspectives suggest a strong link between maternal mental health and parenting, which may facilitate the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage from depressed mothers to their children. In this paper, I extend prior research by using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N = 3,659). OLS and random-effects regression models document a strong link between maternal depression and the following parenting behaviors: neglect, psychological aggression, physical assault, engagement, and parenting stress. Fixed-effects models, however, show that maternal depression is only predictive of neglect and parenting stress, suggesting some negative consequences of depression is driven by variation across individuals or unobserved time-invariant characteristics. Further, the association between depression and neglect is weaker among married than unmarried mothers, providing some evidence that marriage is protective.

Suggested Citation

  • Kristin Turney, 2010. "Labored Love: Examining the Link Between Maternal Depression and Parenting Behaviors," Working Papers 1217, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing..
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:crcwel:wp10-02-ff.pdf

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:mpr:mprres:5511 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:pri:crcwel:wp06-34-ff.pdf is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Kiernan, Kathleen E. & Huerta, Maria Carmen, 2008. "Economic deprivation, maternal depression, parenting and children's cognitive and emotional development in early childhood," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 43720, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Ellwood, David T. & Jencks, Christopher, 2004. "The Spread of Single-Parent Families in the United States since 1960," Working Paper Series rwp04-008, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    5. repec:pri:crcwel:wp06-34-ff is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Audrey N. Beck & Carey E. Cooper & Sara S. McLanahan & Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, 2009. "Relationship Transitions and Maternal Parenting," Working Papers 1131, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing..
    7. repec:mpr:mprres:5512 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. repec:pri:crcwel:wp08-12-ff is not listed on IDEAS
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    More about this item


    depression; parenting; mental health; Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study; social disadvantage;

    JEL classification:

    • C80 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - General
    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty


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