Childhood Depression and Conduct Disorder: II. An Analysis of Family Interaction Patterns in the Home

Mark R. Dadds*, Matthew R. Sanders, Margaret Morrison, Margaret Rebgetz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Citations (Scopus)


Few researchers have assessed family interaction patterns associated with childhood depression, especially using observations in natural settings. We directly sampled the interaction patterns of families with depressed, conduct-disordered, mixed depressed-conduct-disordered, and comparison children ages 7-14 years in their homes during the evening meal. Observational measures were taken of positive and aversive behaviors and affect expression for both parents, the referred children, and their siblings. Results replicated previous research showing that conduct-disordered children express high levels of aversive behavior and anger and are part of a family system marked by conflict and aggression. The depressed children were exposed to maternal aversiveness but did not show any evidence of elevated levels of anger or aversiveness in their own behavior. Surprisingly, this was also true for the mixed-disorder children. High levels of depression in both groups of depressed children were associated with low levels of conflict and anger in family members. Overall, siblings showed very similar patterns of behavior, and were exposed to similar patterns of parental behavior, as the referred children. Results are discussed in terms of family models that emphasize the function of aggression and depression in the maintenance of child psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505-513
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1992
Externally publishedYes


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