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Expressed emotion, attributions and depression in mothers of children with problem behaviour

Publication Date
  • Expressed Emotion
  • Behaviour Problems
  • Causal Attributions
  • Maternal Depression
  • Parent-Child Relationships
  • Maternal Depression
  • Conduct Disorder
  • Young-Children
  • Risk
  • Factor
  • Childhood
  • Psychopathology
  • Boys
  • Schizophrenia
  • Relatives
  • Parents


Background: This was an initial study seeking to examine the relationship between Expressed Emotion (EE), spontaneous causal attributions and depression in mothers of children referred for problem behaviour. Method: Sixty-one mothers were interviewed using the Camberwell Family Interview (CFI). The CFI was coded for maternal EE and spontaneous causal attributions regarding the child's behaviour. Self-report measures of child problem behaviour and maternal depressive symptoms were also completed. Results: Consistent with previous research, high EE mothers, compared to low EE mothers, were more likely to make attributions that judged the cause of problem behaviour to be personal to and controllable by the child and also made more 'child-blaming' attributions than low EE mothers. Mothers' scores on the Beck Depression Inventory were found to be associated with 'child-blaming' attributions and higher levels of EE. Regression analyses did not support the hypothesised role of attributions as a mediator between depression and EE but did identify EE as a potential mediator in the relationship between maternal depressed mood and ratings of child problem behaviour. Conclusions: These results indicate the relevance of both EE and attributions in mothers of children with problem behaviour and suggest that maternal depressed mood is an important factor which is related to both of these.

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