Children’s Affect Expression and Frontal EEG Asymmetry: Transactional Associations with Mothers’ Depressive Symptoms

WPIC-Loeffler 319, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, 3811 O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.
Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology (Impact Factor: 3.48). 03/2008; 36(2):207-21. DOI: 10.1007/s10802-007-9171-y
Source: PubMed


Although parents and children are thought to influence one another's affect and behavior, few studies have examined the direction of effects from children to parents, particularly with respect to parental psychopathology. We tested the hypothesis that children's affective characteristics are associated with the course of mothers' depressive symptoms. Children's affect expression was observed during a series of mother-child interaction tasks, and children's resting frontal electroencephalogram (EEG) asymmetry was assessed in a psychophysiology laboratory. Mothers' depressive symptoms were assessed at two time points, approximately one year apart, at the mother-child interaction visits. Depressive symptoms increased over time for mothers with a history of childhood-onset depression whose children exhibited right frontal EEG asymmetry. Depressive symptoms were associated with high child negative affect at both time points for mothers whose children exhibited right frontal EEG asymmetry. Cross-lagged models with a subset of participants provided some evidence of both parent-to-child and child-to-parent directions of effects. Findings suggest that akin to other interpersonal stressors, children's affective characteristics may contribute to maternal depressive symptoms.

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    • "characteristic of high-risk boys that does not play a role in the development of depression. For example, boys at familial risk are exposed to more dysphoric affect in their parents than their low-risk peers (Forbes et al., 2008) and thus may become more skilled in identifying sadness. It is also possible that the observed effect reflects an early stage of the condition (i.e., prodrome) and thus be a result of depression as opposed to a risk factor. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Offspring of depressed parents are at greatly increased risk for mood disorders. Among potential mechanisms of risk, recent studies have focused on information processing anomalies, such as attention and memory biases, in the offspring of depressed parents. In this study we examined another information processing domain, perceptual sensitivity to emotion cues in facial expressions, as a potential mechanism of risk that characterizes the offspring of depressed parents. Methods: The study included 64 children at familial-risk for depression and 40 low-risk peers between the ages 7 and 13(Mage = 9.51; SD = 2.27). Participants were presented with pictures of facial expressions that varied in emotional intensity from neutral to full-intensity sadness or anger (i.e., emotion recognition), or pictures of faces morphing from anger to sadness (emotion discrimination). After each picture was presented, children indicated whether the face showed a specific emotion (i.e., sadness, anger) or no emotion at all (neutral) using a forced choice paradigm. We examined group differences in the intensity of emotion that suggested greater sensitivity to specific emotions. Results: In the emotion recognition task, boys (but not girls) at familial-risk for depression identified sadness at significantly lower levels of emotional intensity than did their low-risk peers. The high and low-risk groups did not differ with regard to identification of anger. In the emotion discrimination task, both groups displayed over-identification of sadness in ambiguous mixed faces but high-risk youth were less likely to show this labeling bias than their peers. Conclusion: Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that enhanced perceptual sensitivity to subtle traces of sadness in facial expressions may be a potential mechanism of risk among boys at familial-risk for depression. This enhanced perceptual sensitivity does not appear to be due to biases in the labeling of ambiguous faces.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2012 · Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
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    • "Third, the current study did not consider potential bidirectional relations between childhood depression and maternal criticism. That is, research suggests that when children behave in difficult ways, parents may respond with more difficult parenting behaviors (e.g., Forbes et al., 2008). Future research, therefore, should examine how maternal criticism and child depression may operate within a viscous cycle of risk. "
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    ABSTRACT: The primary goal of the current study was to examine the impact of maternal criticism (expressed emotion-criticism; EE-Crit) on the prospective development of depressive episodes in children. In addition to examining baseline levels of EE-Crit, we also sought to determine whether distinct subgroups (latent classes) of mothers could be identified based on the levels of EE-Crit they exhibited over a multiwave assessment and whether that latent class membership would predict depression onset in children. Finally, we examined whether EE-Crit and maternal depression would independently predict children's depression risk or whether EE-Crit would moderate the link between maternal depression and children's depression onset. Children of mothers with or without a history of major depression (N = 100) were assessed 5 times over 20 months. Children completed the Children's Depression Inventory and mothers completed the Five Minute Speech Sample and the Beck Depression Inventory at the baseline assessment, and at 2-, 4-, and 6-month follow-up assessments. Children and mothers completed diagnostic interviews assessing children's onsets of depressive episodes at the 20-month follow-up. Latent class analysis of the 4 waves of EE-Crit assessments revealed two distinct groups, exhibiting relatively lower versus higher levels of EE-Crit across the first 6 months of follow-up. EE-Crit latent class membership predicted children's depression onset over the subsequent 14 months. This finding was maintained after controlling for mother's and children's depressive symptoms during the initial 6 months of follow-up. Finally, maternal depression did not moderate the link between EE-Crit and childhood depression onset. Continued exposure to maternal criticism appears to be an important risk factor for depression in children, risk that is at least partially independent of the risk conveyed by maternal depression. These results highlight the importance of a modifiable risk factor for depression-repeated exposure to maternal criticism.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2012 · Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology
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    • "In the absence of empirical evidence, even with theoretical support for a reciprocal relationship between maternal and child functioning, the transactional perspective has been called an " understudied topic " (Forbes et al., 2008). Few studies have employed analytic techniques that adequately address a bidirectional model in order to convey a transactional perspective between maternal functioning and child characteristics. "
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    ABSTRACT: The present study investigated reciprocal relationships between adolescent mothers and their children's well-being through an analysis of the coupling relationship of mothers' depressive symptomatology and children's internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Unlike studies using discrete time analyses, the present study used dynamical systems to model time continuously, which allowed for the study of dynamic, transactional effects between members of each dyad. Findings provided evidence of coupling between maternal depressive symptoms and children's behaviors. The most robust finding was that as maternal depressive symptoms became more or less severe, children's behavior problems increased or decreased in a reciprocal manner. Results from this study extended upon theoretical contributions of such authors as Richters (1997) and Granic and Hollenstein (2003), providing empirical validation from a longitudinal study for understanding the ongoing, dynamic relationships between at-risk mothers and their children.
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