Maternal anxiety and depression symptomatology are risk factors for the development of children’s internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. However, it is still unclear whether chronic and transient symptoms relate differently to child behavior. The aim of this prospective longitudinal study (N = 193) was to investigate the associations between anxiety and depression symptomatology in a community sample across the first 12.5 years of parenthood, and children’s internalizing and externalizing problems. Maternal anxiety and depression were measured at the child’s age of 3, 6, and 12 months, and 2.5, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12.5 years. At 12.5 years of age, both mothers and children reported on children’s internalizing and externalizing problems. Trait–state occasion modeling was used to disentangle the chronic (trait) part of maternal symptomatology from the transient (occasion-specific) part. On average, 66.6% of the variance in maternal anxiety and depression symptomatology could be explained by the chronic trait factor. For both anxiety and depression, the chronic variance in maternal symptomatology was related to mother-reported internalizing, but not externalizing, problems of the child. Also, for childreported internalizing problems, a significant association with maternal anxiety and depression symptomatology emerged. Only the occasion-specific part of maternal depression symptomatology at the child’s age of 12.5 years was marginally related to mother-reported internalizing problems. Given that chronic subclinical symptomatology seems to be associated with child internalizing problems, prevention and treatment of maternal anxiety and depression symptomatology might be worthwhile regardless of the degree of severity.
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© 2021 American Psychological Association
- Externalizing problems
- Internalizing problems
- Maternal anxiety
- Maternal depression
- Traitstate occasion modeling