Background: This study examined transactional associations among maternal depression, maternal sensitivity, and child engagement in the context of a low-income, diverse sample with maternal cigarette smoking during pregnancy (MSDP) as a moderator of these transactions. Methods: A random-intercept cross-lagged panel model was used to investigate within- and between-family variability from infancy to toddlerhood. The sample included 247 mother–child dyads (47% girls; 51% African-American; 178 MSDP, 69 non-MSDP). Assessments were conducted once during each trimester of pregnancy and at 2, 9, 16, and 24 months of child ages. Results: Between-family associations revealed that children exposed to higher levels of sensitive parenting across time had higher behavioral engagement from infancy to toddlerhood. At the within-family level, increased sensitive parenting at 9 months was predictive of increased child engagement at 16 months which in turn predicted increases in sensitive parenting at 24 months. Increased maternal depression was concurrently associated with lower maternal sensitivity at 2 months and lower child engagement at 16 months. Contrary to hypotheses, changes in maternal depression were not associated to changes in parenting or child engagement. These associations did not vary between prenatally smoking and nonsmoking mothers. However, there was significantly higher stability in maternal depression across time among nonsmoking mothers compared to those in the MSDP group. Additionally, increased maternal depression was related to lower-than-expected child engagement at 9 months only for the nonsmoking group. Conclusions: Results highlight transactional processes at the within-family level and the importance of timing for parent and child effects on transactional processes.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health