The family environment of conduct disordered children and adolescents with depressed parents
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Many researchers contend that parents, and the skills that they possess, are the primary agents through which children develop (Gelfand & Teti, 1990; Ohye, 1985; Barker, 1993). It is because of this importance placed upon parents, that the effects of parental depression on youth have been so extensively studied (Sheppard, 1994). The depressed parent is often unable to rouse themselves from the dysphoria and lack of energy that typifies this disorder, yet they are faced with a child who is demanding of the same attention and energy that is so lacking (Hops, Biglan, Sherman, Arthur, Friedman, & Osteen, 1987). From the child’s perspective, the depressed parent “ ... alternates between withdrawal and episodic explosive hostile outbursts, unable to regulate their own emotions or set limits for children” (Gizynski, 1985). While a great deal of research has been done on the family environment of depressed parents, much of this research does not explore the relationship between specific childhood disorders and parent depression, or the related family environment variables that might possibly mediate such a relationship. One of the most devastating of these childhood disorders is Conduct Disorder, which is increasingly responsible for a tremendous amount of human anguish and economic devastation each year (Fingerhut & Kleinman, 1990). It is hypothesized that the distressed family environment and erratic discipline style of families with depressed parents will be related to externalizing behaviors in their children. This study will examine family environment variables that are related to depressive symptoms in parents of youth with Conduct Disorder. Participants will come from a larger study of adolescents who are receiving treatment at a residential treatment facility. Parents of these youth have completed the SCL-90- R (Derogatis, 1983), which measures various symptoms of psychopathology, including depression. The youth will complete the K-SADS (Puig-Antich & Ryan, 1986) and the Self Report Measure of Family Functioning Child Version (SRMFF-C; Stark, Humphrey, Crook, & Lewis, 1990). It is hypothesized that Conduct Disordered youth will experience higher levels of conflict and less cohesion and expressiveness when compared to a clinical control group of youth with depression. Also, youth from these families will endorse an ambivalent or chaotic family style that generally rejects the values of the democratic family style, while endorsing items from both the authoritarian and laissez-faire family styles. With the findings from this study, it is hoped that the treatment of parent depression, as well as externalizing behavior disorders in their children, will be better informed.