mental health, parenting, adolescence, biological sex, longitudinal design


This study explored mothering and fathering as possible mediators of the relationship between parent and adolescent mental health concerns and considered the adolescents’ biological sex as a potential moderator. Using structural equation modeling, the longitudinal links between parents’ mental health, parental psychological control, parent-adolescent connectedness, and adolescent mental health in 500 families— including 338 fathers and 500 mothers—were explored over the course of 5 years. The mean age of the adolescents (51.8% female, 69.6% European American) at Time 1 was 13.3 years. Mothers’ symptoms of anxiety directly predicted girls’ depression 5 years later. This relation was not mediated by parenting behaviors. Fathers’ symptoms did not directly or indirectly predict adolescent symptoms. Additionally, the relations of maternal parenting with adolescent mental health symptoms 4 years later were moderated by adolescent sex. Specifically, maternal connection was associated with decreased anxiety and depression for boys alone, whereas maternal psychological control was associated with increased anxiety and depression for girls. The father model was generally not moderated by adolescent sex. Limitations of this study include the discrepancy in the sample size of mothers and fathers; more significant findings may have emerged with a larger sample size of fathers. This study highlights the important role that adolescent sex plays in relationships surrounding parenting and mental health in the family system.

Original Publication Citation

Apsley, H. B., & Padilla-Walker, L. M. (2020, July 30). Longitudinal Links Between Parents’ Mental Health, Parenting, and Adolescents’ Mental Health: Moderation by Adolescent Sex. Journal of Family Psychology. Advance online publication.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Family Psychology




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor