Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counseling Psychology

Committee Chair

Sara Bridges

Committee Member

Suzanne Lease

Committee Member

Doug Imig

Committee Member

Chrisann Schiro-Geist


Early childhood is a particularly sensitive time for development, and experiences during this time of life have a lasting impact on later development (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). As part of these early experiences, mother-child relationships often become important influences on young children’s social-emotional and cognitive development (e.g., Laible & Thompson, 2007; Osofsky & Liebernman, 2011). Similarly, mothers’ mental health can impact their relationships with their children (e.g., Nicol-Harber, Harvey, & Stein, 2007; Stein et al., 2008) and their children’s development (e.g., Grace, Evindar, & Stewart, 2003; Skylerman et al., 2007). The purpose of this study was to explore the influences of postnatal maternal anxiety (PMA) and postnatal maternal depression (PMD) on children’s social-emotional and cognitive development at 24 months of age. In addition, mother-child relationships (MCR) were examined as a potential mediator between mothers’ postnatal symptoms and children’s development. This study analyzed archival data on 395 healthy mother-child dyads resembling the population of Shelby County, Tennessee. The dyads were followed from mothers’ third trimester of pregnancy to their children’s 24th month. Many of the results do not support previous research linking postnatal depressive and anxiety symptoms, mother-child relationships, and children’s development. For example, this study did not find significant relations between postnatal depressive symptoms and mother-child relationships, nor did it find an association between mother-child relationships at 24 months and children’s emotional and behavioral problems. The findings did support previous research indicating that mothers’ postnatal anxiety and depressive symptoms predicted children’s emotional and behavioral problems. In addition, an interesting connection was found between children’s social competence and their cognitive development. The findings’ implications for counseling psychology, future research directions, and study limitations are discussed.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.