Date of Award

Summer 7-16-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Marriage and Family Therapy


Gangamma, Rashmi


depressive symptoms, Early Head Start, family therapy, immigrant, parent-child attachment, parenting stress

Subject Categories

Early Childhood Education | Education | Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling | Medicine and Health Sciences | Mental and Social Health


The current study sought to explore the relationship between parenting stress, attachment behaviors, primary caregiver depressive symptoms, and parent-child attachment in a nationally-representative Early Head Start sample of 2349 families. Additionally, the study explored whether there were differences between immigrant families and U.S. born families in terms of the main study variables. The study used a nationally representative secondary dataset, Baby FACES 2018 (Vogel et al., 2018). Data analysis was completed with PROCESS v. 3.3 (Hayes, 2018) in IBM SPSS v.26 (IBM, 2019). A series of mediation and moderated mediation models were tested aligning with each of the hypotheses. The main findings for the whole sample were: Higher parenting stress was associated with lesser parent-child attachment; parenting stress was associated with parent-child attachment through attachment behaviors; and depressive symptoms were a significant moderator of parenting stress and attachment behaviors. The indirect effect of attachment behaviors was not moderated by depressive symptoms. This association was similar for both U.S. born and immigrant respondents. The moderator effect was not significant for U.S. Born and Immigrant subsamples when compared separately. Immigrant respondents had greater parenting stress, lesser depressive symptoms, lower attachment behaviors and lesser parent-child attachment compared to U.S. born respondents. Post-hoc analysis revealed significant differences between the two subsamples in terms of racial and ethnic composition. And level of education of the primary caregiver. Major implications of the study include consideration of how much parental factors like primary caregiver mental health and parenting stress influence a parent's ability to be the best parent for their children and to engage in the parent-child relationship in a way that is consistent and sensitive. Second, a need to expand family well-being services through Head Start programming. Lastly, preliminary findings suggest the need to consider intersections of nationality and race/ethnicity as well as levels of education and gender.


Open Access