Ongoing

Project Director: Tracy R.G. Gladstone, Ph.D.

This project aims to explicate the relation between parental depression, parenting styles, parent/child relationships, sibling relationship quality and internalizing and externalizing outcomes in children.

Although sibling relationships often are our longest-lasting, most familiar and most intense relationships, researchers and clinicians alike have long overlooked this subsystem within the family. Although some research attention has focused on sibling connections, to date no one has looked at sibling relationships in families with parental depression. Yet, the literature on adult depression, and on the relation between parental depression and parenting style, suggests that, within families with depressed parents, sibling relationships may be strained.

This project aims to explicate the relation between parental depression, parenting styles, parent/child relationships, sibling relationship quality and internalizing and externalizing outcomes in children. It is hypothesized that depressed parents will be less consistent and more hostile in their parenting styles, and will be more likely to treat their children differently. These parenting styles, in turn, will have a negative influence on the quality of sibling relationships in these families. In families with poorer sibling relationships, it is expected that children will exhibit more internalizing and externalizing symptoms.

This model provides one possible explanation for the transmission of disorder from parents to children, and, if supported, certainly points to important areas for preventive intervention. Assuming difficult sibling relationships are found to be a risk factor in children of depressed parents, a family-based preventive intervention program will be developed that focuses both on work with parents to teach them ways of promoting positive sibling relationships, as well as work with children that highlights conflict resolution and ways of strengthening the sibling bond. Future goals also include adapting such a program for use in families from a range of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, and in families who are struggling with a range of stressors, from alcoholism to medical illness.