Maternal Depression and Adolescent Optimism

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The life course perspective posits that parents’ and children’s lives are linked through shared experiences and interdependent contexts such as the household. In this paper, we draw on the life course perspective to examine the relationship between maternal depression and adolescent optimism, an important trait that reflects adolescents’ positive expectations for the future, and how features of the family context explain this association. We use data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N = 3013), taking advantage of the study’s longitudinal measures of maternal depression that span a 15-year period. First, we find that current maternal depression is negatively associated with optimism among adolescents. Second, we find that the family environment and parent-child relationships, but not economic wellbeing, explain the association between maternal depression and adolescent optimism. These findings inform our understanding of how parent and adolescent wellbeing are linked and, importantly, how the family environment conditions how adolescents envision their futures. 

Hardie, Jessica Halliday, and Kristin Turney. 2022. “Maternal Depression and Adolescent Optimism.” SSM-Population Health 19:101135.