Maternal Trauma and Adolescent Depression: Is Parenting Style a Moderator?

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Leslie, L. A., & Cook, E. T. (2015). Maternal Trauma and Adolescent Depression: Is Parenting Style a Moderator? Psychology, 6, 681-688.


Current research suggests that parents who experience symptoms of trauma transfer distress to their children. The purpose of this study was to understand the possible moderating effect of mothers’ parenting style on this relationship for adolescents. This study differs from much of the existing literature in that the adolescents themselves are the reporters of their own well-being. The level of maternal trauma, use of parenting styles, and adolescent depression were examined for a clinical sample of 113 mothers and adolescent dyads. Results indicate that mothers who experience high levels of trauma symptoms are more likely to parent using authoritarian or permissive behaviors. Although mother’s level of trauma alone was not related to adolescent’s depression, an interaction was found such that mothers experiencing high levels of trauma symptoms who parented with an authoritarian style had adolescents who experienced more depression than those whose mothers were less authoritarian. These findings are discussed in light of the larger literature on “secondary trauma”, or the transfer of distress, which often focuses on young children, with mothers as the reporters of both their own and their children’s functioning. Clinical implications are also considered.


Funding for Open Access provided by the UMD Libraries Open Access Publishing Fund.