Prior research has linked parental psychological distress to negative child outcomes (Downey & Coyne, 1990). Children with depressed and/or anxious parents, for example, tend to have more conduct problems and more hyperactive symptoms (Olino et al., 2008). Less is known, however, is what factors may protect children from their parents’ psychological distress. A number of studies have shown that family routines – the predictability and “structuredness” of such family activities as play and reading, mealtime, and bedtime, are conducive to positive child development (Bordy & Flor, 1997; Fiese & Everhart, 2008). Expanding upon this work, the goal of the present study is to examine the potentially moderating role of family routines in mitigating the relationship between parental psychological distress and child externalizing behaviors in a community sample of Chinese families. Participants were 236 parent-child pairs from 7 elementary schools in Hong Kong. The average age of children was 10.67 years (SD = 1.17), and 102 (43%) of them were boys. Using standardized questionnaires, parents rated their psychological distress and family routines, and children rated their externalizing behaviors. Hierarchical regression analysis revealed a significant two-way interaction between parental psychological distress and family routine (b = -.15, t = -2.23, p < .05): Parental psychological distress was linked to child externalizing behaviors in families characterized by low routines, but not in families characterized by high routines. Discussion focuses on the importance of maintaining family routines in the face of parental psychological distress in protecting children from being affected.
|Publication status||Published - Jun 2015|