Like mother like daughter, like father like son? : Intergenerational transmission of internalizing symptoms at early school age: a longitudinal study

Despite the well-established link between parental depressive symptoms and children’s internalizing symptoms, studies that divide transmission into gender-specific components remain scarce. Therefore, the present study focused on gender-specific associations between internalizing symptoms of parents and children over the course of early school age, a key stage where gender-specific roles are increasingly adopted. Participants were 272 children (49.6% girls) oversampled for internalizing symptoms. Parents completed questionnaires twice during early school age (mean age time 1 = 7.4 years; SD = 0.24; mean age time 2 = 8.5 years; SD = 0.28). Mothers and fathers separately reported on their own depressive symptoms and their child’s internalizing symptoms. Latent multiple group analyses indicated gender-independent stability as well as gender-specific relations between parental and child outcomes. Maternal depressive symptoms were concurrently associated with symptoms of girls and boys, while paternal symptoms were concurrently associated only with symptoms of boys, but not of girls. Moreover, the associations between children and the parent of the same gender became more relevant over time, suggesting a growing identification with the same-gender model, particularly for fathers and boys. In regard to prospective effects, girls’ internalizing symptoms at age 7 predicted paternal depressive symptoms 1 year later. In a rigorous longitudinal design, this study underscores the importance of gender specificity in the associations of internalizing symptoms between children and their mothers and fathers after controlling for symptom stability over time. The study also raises the interesting possibility that girls’ internalizing symptoms elicit similar symptoms in their fathers.



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