Parental depression and child well-being: Young children's self-reports helped addressing biases in parent reports
Journal of Clinical Epidemiology , Volume 68 - Issue 8 p. 928- 938
Objectives Effects of maternal and paternal depression on child development are typically evaluated using parental reports of child problems. Yet, parental reports may be biased. Methods In a population-based cohort, parents reported lifetime depression (N = 3,178) and depressive symptoms (N = 3,131). Child emotional and behavioral problems were assessed at age 6 years by child self-report using the Berkeley Puppet Interview, by mother report using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), and at age 3 years by father and mother reported CBCLs. Results Both maternal and paternal depression was associated with more child problems. Associations were of similar strength if child problems were obtained by self-reports. However, if parents reported about their own depression or depressive symptoms and about their child's problems, estimates were generally stronger for associations with the reporting parent's depression as the determinant. For instance, if mothers reported child emotional problems, associations were stronger for maternal (B = 0.27; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.19, 0.35) than for paternal lifetime depression (B = 0.12; 95% CI = 0.02, 0.21; P-value for difference = 0.02). Conclusion Depression of mothers and fathers affects young children's well-being. However, if parents reported about their own depression and about child problems, associations were inflated. To accurately estimate effects of parental depression, multiple-source data including young children's perspectives must be considered.