Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Family Consumer Human Development

Department name when degree awarded

Family and Human Development

Committee Chair(s)

Lori A. Roggman


Lori A. Roggman


Scot Allgood


Brent Miller


The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) recently sponsored Head Start-Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) program partnerships. MFT programs can begin building similarly successful collaborative partnerships with Early Head Start (EHS) programs through using all or portions of this research study. This study has been dedicated to describing the occurrence, co-occurrence, and predictive characteristics of marital discord and depression in families served by EHS programs. This identification of at-risk families can then be used to bolster existing treatment efforts, develop new maritally based interventions, and facilitate increased referrals.

Marital discord and depression are two often interrelated problems EHS mothers are at increased risk to face because they have low incomes and very young children (up to age three). Previous research has demonstrated the negative effects of marital discord and maternal depression on child, adult, and family development. Research with various married samples has further identified variables predictive of marital discord and depression. It was the aim of this study to reexamine these predictors and test couple measures to find the most effective identifying variables.

Cross-sectional and prospective longitudinal research analyses were conducted from surveys with 148 EHS married mothers and their spouses to answer specific research questions. In general, results revealed that EHS married mothers were (a) slightly less depressed and maritally discordant than what might be expected of lower income parents, (b) more prone to experiencing these problems the more children they had, and (c) more accurately identified by considering couple data, which included similarity in earlier marital discord, earlier depression, religious activity, attachment attitudes or demographic variables. The limitations of this study included weaknesses in measurement and analytic procedures largely resulting from the use of data originally organized at a national level with Jess complementary purposes in mind. In the future research should address the limitations and incorporate the findings of this study into development and testing of theoretically driven marital interventions in EHS samples. Systemic implications and managing ethical concerns of using the proposed marital interventions in EHS- MFT collaborative effort are also discussed.