Individuals’ marital instability mediates the association of their perceived childhood parental affection predicting adulthood depression across 18 years

Madeline Eleanor Bartek, Nur Hani Zainal, Michelle G. Newman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Parenting theories propose that lack of childhood parental affection confers increased vulnerability to heightened adulthood depression. However, only a few prospective studies have examined this topic, and no studies included mediators of the childhood parental affection–adulthood depression connection. Objective: This study examined parenting, and interpersonal theories by determining if participants’ (n= 2,825) mid-life marital instability mediated their perceived childhood parental affection predicting depressive symptoms in adulthood across 18 years. Methods: Childhood maternal and paternal affection (Parental Support Scale) was measured at Time 1 (T1). Depressive symptoms (Composite International Diagnostic Interview-Short Form) were measured at T1, Time 2 (T2), and Time 3 (T3), spaced approximately nine years apart. Marital instability (Marital Instability Index) was measured at T1 and T2. Structural equation modeling analyses were conducted to test whether perceived childhood parental affection would independently negatively predict T3 depressive symptoms, and if participants’ mid-life marital instability mediated those relations. All analyses adjusted for prior levels of mediator and outcome variables. Results: Lower perceived childhood maternal and paternal affection predicted higher T3 depressive symptoms. Lower childhood maternal and paternal affection predicted higher T2 marital instability. Greater marital instability in turn predicted elevated T3 depression. Individuals’ marital instability mediated those associations, by accounting for 17–20% of the total effects. Conclusion: Findings highlight the importance of perceived childhood parental affection to nurture a strong marital bond to reduce the odds of developing major depressive disorder in middle-to-late adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-242
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Volume291
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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