The Link Between Maternal Depression and Child Behavior Problems: The Moderating Role of Early Temperament

Suzanne Holland, Syracuse University


Child development begins with an attachment which can provide an emotionally safe space from which to explore the world (Bowlby, 1979). This exploration develops us as humans and eventually allows us to connect and develop an attachment with our own child to continue a cycle within life. Certain disruptions, such as depression, can cause a temporary halt to the cycles of life and the human development that is ever continuing. Maternal depression comes at a dangerous time when development is key, attachments are in jeopardy, and children are watching their caretaker’s every move (Bandura, 1986). This study seeks to further understand the impact that maternal depression has on the developing child, while also filling a gap in the literature by introducing child temperament to the model (Baker et al., 2020). The understanding of maternal depression and child problem behaviors within the context of child temperament could allow for further study into potential protective factors for the population of interest. Linear regressions were conducted to understand the relationship between maternal depression and child problem behaviors, and child temperament was introduced into the regression as well. A specific facet of child temperament, orientation and engagement, was found to be most impactful upon the cultivation of internalizing problem behaviors with mothers experiencing depression. Emotional regulation had similar effects as well. Further research is needed to confirm and expand upon these findings. Keywords: Maternal depression, early child development, child temperament, child problem behaviors