Mothers' Depressive Symptoms Predict Both Increased and Reduced Negative Reactivity: Aversion Sensitivity and the Regulation of Emotion

Theodore Dix, Anat Moed, Edward R. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study examined whether, as mothers' depressive symptoms increase, their expressions of negative emotion to children increasingly reflect aversion sensitivity and motivation to minimize ongoing stress or discomfort. In multiple interactions over 2 years, negative affect expressed by 319 mothers and their children was observed across variations in mothers' depressive symptoms, the aversiveness of children's immediate behavior, and observed differences in children's general negative reactivity. As expected, depressive symptoms predicted reduced maternal negative reactivity when child behavior was low in aversiveness, particularly with children who were high in negative reactivity. Depressive symptoms predicted high negative reactivity and steep increases in negative reactivity as the aversiveness of child behavior increased, particularly when high and continued aversiveness from the child was expected (i.e., children were high in negative reactivity). The findings are consistent with the proposal that deficits in parenting competence as depressive symptoms increase reflect aversion sensitivity and motivation to avoid conflict and suppress children's aversive behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1353-1361
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Science
Volume25
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • childhood development
  • depression
  • emotions
  • interpersonal interaction
  • motivation

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