Role of Maternal Social Support and Church Attendance in Moderating the Relationship Between Maternal Depression and African American Preschoolers' Behavior Problems
Tyler, Crystal Michelle
Koblinsky, Sally A
MetadataShow full item record
Policymakers, educators, researchers and practitioners are devoting increasing attention to the challenges faced by low-income families in urban communities. Research indicates that poor women with young children are particularly susceptible to experiencing depression. Maternal depression has been associated with numerous negative outcomes for both mothers and their children. In view of the high prevalence of maternal depression and the myriad stressors faced by poor families in high crime neighborhoods, there is an urgent need to identify factors that may attenuate the negative impact of mother's depression on preschoolers' socioemotional development. Thus, the major purpose of this study was to examine the potential of social support and church attendance to moderate the relationship between maternal depression and children's behavior problems. The present study utilized secondary data from a larger, three-year study funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The sample for this study consisted of low-income African American mothers in violent neighborhoods in Washington, DC and Prince George's County, Maryland. All mothers had a three-to-five year old child enrolled in Head Start. Data were obtained through face-to-face interviews utilizing culturally-sensitive measures. Multiple regression analyses were used to examine the main and interaction effects for predictor (maternal depressive symptoms), moderator (social support, church attendance), and criterion variables (child internalizing and externalizing behavior problems). Results revealed that maternal depressive symptomology significantly predicted children's internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. Findings further revealed that social support moderated the relationship between maternal depressive symptoms and children's externalizing behavior problems. When the level of social support increased for mothers who did not exhibit extreme depressive symptomology, children had fewer externalizing behavior problems. In contrast, when social support increased for mothers with very severe depressive symptoms, children had greater externalizing problems. Maternal social support did not buffer preschoolers' internalizing problems. Maternal church attendance likewise failed to buffer the relationship between maternal depressive symptoms and internalizing or externalizing problems. Findings suggest a need for culturally-sensitive strategies to increase the support networks of low-income, urban, African American mothers of preschoolers. Such efforts may help educators and family practitioners to reduce the impact of maternal depression on preschoolers' externalizing behavior problems.