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Depressed Mothers' Judgments about Their Children: An Examination of the Depression-Distortion Hypothesis

John Richters and David Pellegrini
Child Development
Vol. 60, No. 5 (Oct., 1989), pp. 1068-1075
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1130780
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1130780
Page Count: 8
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Depressed Mothers' Judgments about Their Children: An Examination of the Depression-Distortion Hypothesis
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Abstract

The belief that depressed mothers have distorted perceptions of their children's problems has gained considerable currency in recent years. The empirical basis for this belief at present amounts to little more than reliable demonstrations that depressed mothers tend to report more behavior problems in their children than do nondepressed mothers. An obvious alternative to the distortion interpretation is that depressed mothers are accurate about their children's behavior problems. We examined these competing models by comparing teachers' ratings of children with ratings provided by their mothers, who varied on the dimensions of depressed mood, depressed clinical state, and history of depression. Mothers' and teachers' ratings yielded substantially similar portraits of child behavior problems at the group level, with children of in-remission and in-episode mothers manifesting significantly higher levels of behavior problems than children of control mothers. Moreover, agreement between mothers and teachers was in the moderate range for all index groups and did not differ significantly from the mean level of mother-teacher agreement reported by other investigators based on unselected samples. The limitations of these findings and of earlier reports for assessing a depression → distortion influence on mothers' ratings of their children are considered.

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