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


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.

Share and Cite:

Leslie, L. & Cook, E. (2015). Maternal Trauma and Adolescent Depression: Is Parenting Style a Moderator?. Psychology, 6, 681-688. doi: 10.4236/psych.2015.66066.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Baumrind, D. (1971). Current Patterns of Parental Authority. Developmental Psychology Monograph, 4, 1-103.
[2] Beck, A. T., Rush, A. J., Shaw, B. F., & Emery, G. (1979). Cognitive Therapy of Depression. New York: Guilford Press.
[3] Beck, A. T., Steer, R. A., & Garbin, M. G. (1988). Psychometric Properties of the Beck Depression Inventory: Twenty-Five Years of Evaluation. Clinical Psychology Review, 8, 77-100.
[4] Berk, L. E. (2005). Infants, Children, and Adolescents (5th ed.). Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson.
[5] Briere, J. (1995). Trauma Symptom Inventory (TSI): Professional Manual. Odessa, Florida: Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.
[6] Briere, J., & Scott, C. (2006). Principles of Trauma Therapy: A Guide to Symptoms, Evaluation, and Treatment. New York: Sage Publications.
[7] Catherall, D. R. (2004). Handbook of Stress, Trauma, and the Family. New York: Brunner-Routledge.
[8] Coolahan, K. C. (1997). Empirical Relationships among Parenting Styles, Determinants of Parenting, and Children’s School Readiness in Urban Head Start Families. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania.
[9] Cummings, E. M., DeArth-Pendley, G., Schudlick, T. D., & Smith, D. A. (2000). Parental Depression and Family Functioning: Toward a Process-Oriented Model of Children’s Adjustment. In S. R. H. Beach (Ed.), Marital and Family Processes in Depression: A Scientific Foundation for Clinical Practice (pp. 89-110). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
[10] Dulmus, C. N., & Wodarski, J. S. (2000). Trauma-Related Symptomatology among Children of Parents Victimized by Urban Community Violence. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 70, 272-277.
[11] Garbarino, J., Bradshaw, C. P., & Kostelny, K. (2005). Neighborhood and Community Influences on Parenting. In T. Luster, & L. Okagaki (Eds.), Parenting: An Ecological Perspective (2nd ed., pp. 297-318). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
[12] Kaitz, M., Levy, M., Ebstein, R., Faraone, S. V., & Mankuta, D. (2009). The Intergenerational Effects of Trauma from Terror: A Real Possibility. Infant Mental Health Journal, 30, 158-179.
[13] Kiser, L. J., & Black, M. M. (2005). Family Processes in the Midst of Urban Poverty: What Does the Trauma Literature Tell Us? Aggression and Violent Behavior, 10, 715-750.
[14] Lombardo, K. L., & Motta, R. W. (2008). Secondary Trauma in Children of Parents with Mental Illness. Traumatology, 14, 57-67.
[15] Maccoby, E. E., & Martin, J. A. (1983). Socialization in the Context of the Family: Parent-Child Interaction. In P. H. Mussen, & E. M. Hetherington (Eds.), Handbook of Child Psychology: Vol. 4. Socialization, Personality, and Social Development (pp. 1-101). New York: Wiley.
[16] Matsakis, A. (2004). Trauma and Its Impact on Families. In D. R. Catherall (Ed.), Handbook of Stress, Trauma, and the Family (pp. 15-31). New York: Brunner-Routledge.
[17] Pettit, G. S., Bates, J. E., & Dodge, K. A. (1997). Supportive Parenting, Ecological Context, and Children’s Adjustment: A Seven-Year Longitudinal Study. Child Development, 68, 908-923.
[18] Rossman, B. B. R. (1999). Multiple Risks for Children Exposed to Parental Violence: Family Factors, Psychological Maltreatment, and Trauma. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 2, 207-237.
[19] Sitarenios, G., & Kovacs, M. (1999). Use of the Children’s Depression Inventory. In M. Maruish (Ed.), The Use of Psychological Testing for Treatment Planning and Outcomes Assessment (2nd ed., pp. 267-298). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
[20] Thanker, D., Coffino, B., & Lieberman, A. (2013). Maternal Symptomatology and Parent-Child Relationship Functioning in a Diverse Sample of Young Children Exposed to Trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 26, 217-224.
[21] Van Ee, E., Kleber, R. J., & Mooren, T. T. (2012). War Trauma Lingers On: Associations between Maternal Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Parent-Child Interaction, and Child Development. Infant Mental Health Journal, 33, 459-468.
[22] Wyman, E. L., Cowen, W. C., Work, W. C., Hoyt-Meyers, L., Magnus, K. B., & Fagen, D. B. (1999). Caregiving and Developmental Factors Differentiating Young At-Risk Urban Children Showing Resilient versus Stress-Affected Outcomes: A Replication and Extensions. Child Development, 70, 645-659.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.