Development and Psychopathology

Regular Articles

Transactional processes in child disruptive behavior and maternal depression: A longitudinal study from early childhood to adolescence

Heather E. Grossa1 c1, Daniel S. Shawa1, Rebecca A. Burwella2 and Daniel S. Nagina3

a1 University of Pittsburgh

a2 Westfield State College

a3 Carnegie Mellon University


Although much has been written about the utility of applying Sameroff and Chandler's transactional perspective to the study of child psychopathology, relatively few researchers have used such an approach to trace the emergence of child problem behavior from infancy to adolescence. Using a sample of 289 male toddlers from predominantly low-income families, the current study examined associations between various forms of early child disruptive behavior, subsequent trajectories of maternal depressive symptoms over the course of 8 years, and adolescent problem behavior. Results indicated that early child noncompliance was the most robust predictor of more chronic and elevated trajectories of maternal depression, which in turn discriminated teacher and youth reports of adolescent antisocial behavior but not internalizing symptoms. The findings were consistent with transactional perspectives of developmental psychopathology that have emphasized the dynamic interplay between child and parent characteristics.


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Heather E. Gross, University of Pittsburgh, 210 South Bouquet Street, 4423 Sennott Square, Pittsburgh, PA 15260; E-mail:


The research reported in this paper was supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grants MH 46925, MH 50907, and MH 01666 (to D.S.S.). We are grateful to the staff of the Pitt Mother & Child Project for their years of service and to our study families for making the research possible. We also thank Dr. Bob Jones for his helpful comments and assistance on this manuscript.