Date of Award

Fall 2021

Publication Type


Degree Name





Childhood aggression, Dynamic systems approach, Maternal depression, Parent-child interactions


R. Menna


K. Soucie



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Parent-child interactions have been examined to understand the trajectory of childhood aggression into adolescence and beyond. Maternal depressive symptoms have been considered as an influential factor in the development and continued trajectory of aggressive behaviours. In addition, aggressive children can influence maternal depressive symptoms and parenting behaviours that subsequently increase the risk of aggression in children. To understand the unique emotional patterns that occurs within parent-child interactions in these at-risk populations, the present study examined the relationship between maternal depressive symptoms and child aggression through a dynamic systems approach. Participants were 105 and mothers and their children aged 3 to 6 years old. Mothers completed a self-report questionnaire assessing their depressive symptoms, as well as a parent questionnaire assessing aggressive levels in their children. Mothers and their children were observed during a free play task and a structured teaching task. Shared affect expressions were coded and transferred into state space grid software to capture the structure and content of mother-child interactions in relation to depressive symptoms and child aggression. The analyses revealed that aggression was related to increased child flexibility and lower rigidity, particularly during the structured teaching task. In addition, mothers predominantly expressed permissiveness throughout both tasks. When dynamic system methods are applied to the study of parent-child interactions, more can be understood about the coregulatory patterns and mechanisms that illustrate unique trajectories of parent-child outcomes.