Does Maternal Depression Really Lower Child Well-Being? A Comparison of Parents’ and Children’s (Self-) Assessment

Stephanie Hess , Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg
Matthias Pollmann-Schult, Magdeburg University

Previous studies show significant negative associations between parental depression and child well-being (CWB). However, most of these studies used parents’ assessment of CWB whereas children’s self-evaluations have not been considered to a satisfactory extent. Our study aims to examine whether there are differences between the association of maternal depression and maternal and child (self-) assessment of CWB. Our main question is whether more depressed mothers assess their children’s well-being worse compared to their children’s self-assessment. For our analyses we use data from waves 2 to 10 of the German Family Panel (pairfam). We estimate fixed-effects models of maternal depression on CWB as reported by mothers and their children (n=1,773), respectively. Our findings on the effect of maternal depression on CWB assessed by parents are in line with previous research: Increasing levels of maternal depression are associated with significant increases in child emotional and conduct problems as reported by the mother. The results for fathers are less robust. However, none of those effects hold for children’s self-assessment. Neither maternal nor paternal depression are correlated with children’s self-reported emotional or conduct problems. The analyses indicate that negative associations between parental depression and child well-being are significantly less pronounced when CWB is assessed by children instead of parents. Thus, research on the association between parental depression and child well-being needs to take into account the origin of information on CWB and reconsider the validity of parental assessment.

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 Presented in Session 95. Challenges of Parenting