Coping as a Mediator in a Preventive Intervention for Children and Adolescents of Parents with Depression
Fear, Jessica M.
The present study examined changes in coping as a mediator of the efficacy of a preventive intervention program for children and adolescents of parents with a history of depression. Changes in coping as a mediator were tested using two different approaches to testing for mediation (Baron and Kenny’s (1986) causal steps approach and Kraemer et al.’s (2002) more recent approach for testing mediation within the context of intervention trials) and with respect to the timing of the measurement of the mediator and outcome symptoms. The most important finding from this study was that changes in children and adolescents’ use of secondary control coping mediated program effects on children and adolescents’ symptoms 12-months later. With respect to the methodological issues examined in the current study, a comparison of results from two different approaches to testing for mediation yielded greater support for mediation when utilizing the approach outlined by Kraemer et al. One important difference contributing to a greater number of significant findings using Kraemer’s approach compared to Baron and Kenny’s approach is the inclusion of the interaction of condition (intervention group vs. information-only comparison group) and changes in coping as a predictor in the regression model. Findings from this study suggest that this approach to testing for mediation is more sensitive to changes in coping functioning differently across the two groups, and may therefore be more appropriate for use in testing mediation within the context of intervention trials compared to Baron and Kenny’s causal steps approach. Results from this study therefore have potentially important implications for prevention research and implicate secondary control coping as a core component to include in future interventions designed to prevent depression in high-risk youth. More importantly, it suggests that children and adolescents can learn coping strategies to handle stress, and when enacted appropriately, these strategies may help protect children from the adverse effect of the given stressor.