Maternal depressive symptoms, rumination, and child emotion regulation

  • Qiong WuEmail author
  • Xin Feng
  • Micah Gerhardt
  • Li Wang
Original Contribution


Children of depressed mothers are at risk for maladaptive emotion regulation. This study examined a model of maternal rumination that links maternal depressive symptoms to child emotion regulation. A sample of 126 mother–child dyads (65 girls) participated in the current study, at three assessment points when children were age three, four, and five. At all assessment points, mothers reported their depressive symptoms and ruminative response style. Child emotion regulation was assessed observationally from two laboratory tasks, which were designed to elicit anger and sadness. Elevated maternal depressive symptoms were associated with higher concurrent rumination. Maternal rumination at child age four predicted that more child focus on distress during sadness-eliciting tasks and less child active distraction during anger-eliciting tasks 1 year later. Additionally, maternal rumination at child age three and four predicted less child passive behaviors in anger-eliciting tasks prospectively. Findings suggest that maternal rumination is predictive of using maladaptive regulatory strategies among children of depressed mothers. This study has significant implications for intervention programs targeting depressed mothers and their children.


Maternal depressive symptoms Rumination Emotion regulation Emotion socialization Response style 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Family and Child Sciences, College of Human SciencesFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Human SciencesThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  3. 3.School of Psychological and Cognitive Sciences, Beijing Key Laboratory of Behavior and Mental HealthPeking UniversityBeijingChina

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