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Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Brenda Lundy- Jackson


Department of Psychology

Sponsor Department/Program

Department of Psychology


Mothers with depression tend to engage in insensitive styles of interaction, which have been associated with delays or deficits in early socioemotional and cognitive development. Furthermore, decreased levels of sensitivity have been found, not only in clinically depressed mothers, but also in mothers with elevated symptoms of depression (e.g., Bettes, 1988; Donovan, Leavitt, & Walsh, 1998). While research has established that maternal interactional sensitivity is an important contributor in development, little research has been conducted concerning contributions from the father. This is important because in the United States, fathers are present in 72% of households, making them a large factor concerning nonmaternal care and interactions with children (Forbes, Cohn, Allen, & Lewinsohn, 2004). In the present research, depressive symptoms are expected to be negatively correlated with parental mind-mindedness (i.e., parents’ tendency to treat their children as individuals with independent minds; Meins, 1997), and parents’ sensitive attunement, or responsiveness, to their preschoolers’ mental processes during collaborative problem-solving. Parents completed a set of questionnaires, participated in a mind-mindedness interview, and collaborated with their child on a puzzle construction task. Parent-child interactions are coded for interactional attunement. We found that both mothers and fathers who showed depressive symptoms used more control comments and fewer autonomy comments. In other words, both mothers and fathers who exhibited depressive symptoms were more likely to give directions and engage in control comments (eg., “Put that there.”) when interacting with their child, and encourage less independent thinking. The present findings may contribute to the understanding of the relation between parental depression and interaction styles. Self-focused tendencies associated with depression and depressive symptoms may hinder parents’ ability to represent their children’s mental processes. The representation of mental processes is viewed as a precursor to the ability to respond appropriately and sensitively to children’s mental processes (Meins, 1999). Perhaps with additional research, intervention techniques could be developed to promote higher levels of mind-mindedness in those with a tendency to be self-focused, to promote more optimal developmental outcomes.



Parental Depressive Symptoms and Attunement to Preschoolers’ Mental Processes

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