Background and Objective: Negative parent-child interaction patterns have been
linked to youth depression, with a causal influence being assumed. However, the majority of
empirical studies examining this issue have used self-report methods to assess parent-child
relationships, which cannot capture the temporal dynamics of dyadic interactions and may be
subject to reporting bias. This review considers the association between parent-child
interactions and youth depression with a specific focus on observational methodology.
Method: A literature search was conducted including studies that investigated the association
between observed parent-child interactions and youth depressive symptomology. Literature
was obtained using database searches, citation searches and screening of recent reviews.
Results and Conclusion: Maternal disengagement, reduced adolescent autonomy granting,
adolescent maladaptive emotion regulation, parental suppression of adolescent positivity and
incongruent parent-child communication styles were relatively consistently related to youth
depression. Nonetheless, there were conflicting findings and several studies demonstrated
little or no contribution of parent-child interaction factors to youth depression. Overall, the
evidence suggests that causal influences are likely to be modest. The majority of studies
relate to maternal versus paternal interactions. Furthermore, the factors that mediate the
association between parent-child interactions and youth depression remain largely unknown.
Implications for future research and clinical practice are discussed.