Using data from a subset of 606 families who participated in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, we assessed emotional intimacy in the marriage as a buffer of the negative effects of parental depression on the quality of parent- child interaction. Maternal and paternal depressive symptoms and perceptions of emotional intimacy in the marriage were assessed via self-reports when children were 4.5 years old, and parental sensitive scaffolding and child task orientation were observed during mother-child and father-child interaction tasks at 4.5 years and again at 6.5 years. Path analyses indicated that marital intimacy moderated the longitudinal association between parental depressive symptoms and parent-child interaction, controlling for parent or child behavior at 4.5 years. The pattern of this interaction, however, differed for mothers and fathers. Paternal depressive symptoms predicted less child task orientation with fathers when marital intimacy was low and more child task orientation when marital intimacy was high. In contrast, maternal depressive symptoms predicted less sensitive scaffolding by mothers and less child task orientation with mothers when mothers reported moderate to high levels of marital intimacy. Results are discussed with respect to the buffering role of marital intimacy for children of depressed fathers and compensatory processes that may unfold for depressed mothers.
- Child task orientation
- Marital intimacy
- Parental depression
- Parental scaffolding
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Life-span and Life-course Studies