Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Human Development and Family Studies

Committee Chair(s)

Lisa K. Boyce


Lisa K. Boyce


Audrey C. Juhasz


Sarah S. Tulane


Caregiver depression, particularly maternal depression, has repeatedly been shown to be a risk factor for the development of problem behaviors in young children. Problem behaviors fit within two categories: internalizing and externalizing. Externalizing behaviors include peer aggression, defiance, and impulsivity. Internalizing behaviors include generalized anxiety, withdrawal, separation distress, depression, and inhibition to novelty.

Gaps still exist in the research regarding the mental health of other caregivers that directly interact with children’s lives. Increasingly more children spend a great deal of time in child care settings. Less is known about child care provider stress and depression in relation to toddler problem behaviors.

Previous investigations found that child care provider education, experience, and interactions with the children influence quality. These variables are also related to toddler problem behaviors. Other factors such as child care provider mental health have yet to be explored fully to understand its influence on the development of problematic behaviors in young children.

This research sought to explore the associations among child care provider stress and depression and toddler internalizing and externalizing problem behaviors. Data from he Utah State University Child Care Access Means Parents In School (CCAMPIS) grant were analyzed. Additional child care providers in Utah were sampled, as well as parents in their program who had toddler aged children.

Results indicated that a high number of toddlers in the sample showed higher levels of negative emotionality and depression symptoms compared to previous research with children in child care. Toddler aged male children showed higher levels of impulsivity. In contrast to previous research, higher family income was associated with higher toddler peer aggression. Additionally, high levels of child care provider stress were correlated with higher levels of peer aggression. This small exploratory research study points to the need for further research to look at these variables and other possible contributing factors.