Sara Johns

Date Approved


Date Posted


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department or School


Committee Member

Heather Janisse, Ph.D., Chair

Committee Member

Alissa Huth-Bocks, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas Schmitt, Ph.D.


Data indicate that up to 25% of preschoolers are exhibiting clinical levels of externalizing behaviors. Among children in at-risk populations, such as those attending Head Start preschools, estimates of clinical levels of externalizing behavior problems are as high as 30%. Studies of early childhood externalizing behavior problems indicate the potential for stability of elevated externalizing behaviors over time and the association of these behaviors with a variety of negative outcomes. Maternal depression and father involvement may be important predictors of externalizing behavior. The current study investigated the nature of the relationship between maternal depression, father involvement, and child externalizing behaviors among low-income African-American families with preschool-aged children. Path analysis implemented through Mplus computer software was used to test the hypothesized moderation and mediation models. Father involvement was not found to moderate the relationship between maternal depression and child externalizing behavior problems as hypothesized. However, father involvement was found to have an indirect relationship to child externalizing behaviors with maternal depression fully mediating the relationship between father involvement and parent-rated child externalizing behavior problems. Father involvement was also found to have a significant direct relationship with maternal depression such that as involvement increased, depression decreased. Maternal depression was also found to have a direct relationship with parent-rated child externalizing behavior problems, such that as depression decreased externalizing behaviors did as well.