Introduction: Given the interdependent nature of relationships within the family system, the purpose of this study was to examine the potential role of child-parent psychotherapy (CPP) to extend its positive influence beyond the mother-child relationship within families challenged by maternal depression. Accordingly, we analyzed longitudinal associations between depressive symptoms and marital satisfaction over 3 years in order to evaluate if the benefits of CPP to mother-child attachment security might generalize within the family and indirectly benefit marital relationships. Method: We tested our hypotheses in a randomized control trial of CPP (N = 159 families) to examine the intervention's efficacy in families with mothers with histories of depression since the target child's birth (Mage = 20.4 months, SD = 2.5; 56% boys). Results: Using hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) with an actor-partner interdependence modeling (APIM) framework, the results supported our hypothesis as well as revealed significant associations between depressive symptoms and marital functioning. Specifically, shifts in mothers' depressive symptoms within specific waves of follow-up were associated with corresponding shifts in both their husbands' and their own relationship satisfaction in those same waves. After controlling for those effects, only mothers with a history of depression who received CPP demonstrated slight improvements in relationship satisfaction over the 3 years of the study, suggesting secondary benefits of CPP within the family system. Discussion: Results are discussed in terms of the importance of examining therapeutic processes within the larger family system. Concerning future research, we also suggest examining potential mechanisms through which CPP might influence marital satisfaction.
- Child-parent psychotherapy
- Marital satisfaction