Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dianna Murray-Close

Second Advisor

Nicole Conroy


Parents’ mental health challenges, including depressive symptoms, are a known risk factor for children’s maladjustment, including self-regulation difficulties. Additionally, children’s behavior has been found to have important consequences for their parents’ mental health. Little is known, however, about whether children’s self-regulation, a foundational skill of early childhood, influences parental mental health and wellbeing. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the longitudinal, cross-lagged associations between children’s self-regulation and parental depressive symptoms. Two domains of self-regulation, cognitive and emotional, were investigated as they may be differentially associated with parents’ depressive symptoms. Participants included a community sample of 129 preschool children and a parent. At the beginning of the study, parents completed questionnaires about their children’s cognitive and emotional regulation as well as their own depressive symptoms; they completed all questionnaires again one year later. I examined the associations between parents’ depressive symptoms and changes in children’s regulation abilities as well as how children’s cognitive and emotional regulation were related to changes in their parents’ depressive symptoms over the course of one year. I anticipated bidirectional associations, such that greater difficulties with children’s cognitive and emotional regulation would be related to increases in parental symptoms of depression and vice versa. Analyses indicated that children’s cognitive and emotional regulation were best represented as correlated but separate latent variables at both time points. Moreover, at Time 1, I found concurrent associations between parental depressive symptoms and child difficulties with cognitive and emotional regulation. No longitudinal relations between children’s regulation challenges and parental depressive symptoms were found; however, Time 1 parental depressive symptoms were related to greater cognitive regulation challenges for children one year later. Overall, the results from the present study suggest that prevention and intervention programs aimed at improving parents’ depressive symptoms will likely have important consequences for their children’s cognitive and emotional regulation abilities, which, in turn, may facilitate longer-term psychosocial adjustment.



Number of Pages

87 p.

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