Children of Depressed Parents: Interparental Conflict, Self-Blame, and Coping
Fear, Jessica Marie
The present study examined interparental conflict, children’s attributions of interparental conflict, children’s coping responses, and children’s emotional and behavioral symptoms, in a sample of 77 children (age 9-15 years old) of parents with a history of depression. Higher levels of interparental conflict were associated with more anxiety/depression and aggressive symptoms, greater perceived coping inefficacy, and greater use of primary control coping and disengagement coping by children (as reported by the parent). Furthermore, higher levels of interparental conflict, more perceived self-blame, and greater use of disengagement coping were all associated with more symptoms of both anxiety/depression and aggression. In contrast, greater use of primary control and secondary control coping were associated with fewer anxious/depressed and aggressive symptoms, suggesting that these forms of coping may be protective factors for children in this sample coping with interparental conflict. Children’s attributions of self-blame were also significantly negatively correlated with children’s use of secondary control coping responses. Consistent across all regression models tested and regardless of informant of coping (parent vs. child), children’s perceptions of self-blame and use of secondary control coping were significant, independent predictors of both anxious/depressed and aggressive symptoms in children. Results have potentially important implications for intervention research, suggesting the need for interventions designed to decrease children’s feelings of self-blame and increase children’s use of secondary control coping (i.e., acceptance, distraction, cognitive restructuring) in order to buffer children of depressed parents from the stress of high levels of interparental conflict.