Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


School Psychology

First Adviser

Manz, Patricia H.

Other advisers/committee members

DuPaul, George J.; Woodhouse, Susan; Fu, Qiong


Expressive language acquisition and growth in the first three years of life is predictive of school-age literacy and academic achievement (Dickinson, Golinkoff, & Hirsh-Pasek, 2010; National Early Literacy Panel, 2008). Young children experiencing economic hardship are at greater risk for expressive language delays than their economically advantaged peers (Huttenlocher, Waterfall, Vasilyeva, Vevea, & Hedges, 2010). Parental engagement in developmentally supportive parent-child interactions can overcome the negative impact of poverty on language development (Roggman et al, 2013). However, a significant challenge to fostering healthy parent-child interactions is the threat of depressive symptoms. Depression is prevalent among economically disadvantaged mothers of young children and compromises engagement in parenting practices that support language development (Hwa-Froelich, Cook, & Flick, 2008). Despite the association among maternal depression, parenting practices, and children’s expressive language outcomes, limited research investigating the mediating role of parenting interactions lacks psychometric quality and construct validity. Thus, the current investigation evaluated the association between maternal depressive symptoms and children’s expressive language in a racially and ethnically diverse sample of mothers and their young children. Additionally, five simple mediation analyses using ordinary least squares regression in PROCESS (Hayes, 2013) assessed the roles of affectionate, responsive, encouraging, teaching, and overall parenting practices through the use of a standardized, psychometrically validated observational tool of parenting practices. Analyses revealed no significant relationship between maternal depression and children’s expressive language. All five mediation analyses found non-significant indirect effects. Teaching behaviors had a positive association with children’s expressive language scores, however this relationship lost statistical significance after controlling for children’s age and Early Head Start enrollment duration. Explanation of results and future research directions are discussed.