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A transactional mediation model of risk for the intergenerational transmission of depression: The role of maternal criticism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 September 2022

Elana S. Israel*
Department of Psychology, Binghamton University, State University of New York, Binghamton, NY, USA
Brandon E. Gibb
Department of Psychology, Binghamton University, State University of New York, Binghamton, NY, USA
Corresponding author: Elana S. Israel, email:


In this study, we sought to combine two lines of research to better understand risk for the intergenerational transmission of depression. The first focuses on the role of maternal criticism as a potential mechanism of risk for depression in youth while the second builds from interpersonal and stress generation models regarding the potential impact of youth depression on future escalations in maternal criticism. Specifically, we examined the role of maternal criticism within a transactional mediation model using data from a multi-wave study. Participants were 251 mother–offspring pairs consisting of mothers with (n = 129) and without (n = 122) a history of major depressive disorder (MDD) during their child’s lifetime who completed assessments every 6 months for 2 years. We found support for the hypothesized transactional mediational model in which maternal expressed emotion-criticism (EE-Crit) mediated the link between maternal history of MDD and residual change in youth’s depressive symptoms over the previous 6 months and, reciprocally, youth depressive symptoms mediated the relation between maternal MDD history and residual change in EE-Crit 6 months later. These results indicate that maternal criticism and offspring depressive symptoms may contribute to a vicious cycle of depression risk, which should be considered for interventions targeted toward youth at risk of developing MDD.

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© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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