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Background Previous studies of relations between parenting self-concepts, parental adjustment and child temperament have been ambiguous regarding the direction of influence; and have rarely followed families from pregnancy through the first year of life. The current study examines change and stability in maternal depressive symptoms, parenting competences and child temperament through the perinatal period until nine months postpartum. Methods Czech mothers (N = 282) participated at three time points: the third trimester of pregnancy (Time 1), six weeks (Time 2) and nine months postpartum (Time 3). Questionnaire data concerned depressive symptoms (T1, T2, T3), maternal parenting self-esteem (T1, T2) and sense of competence (T3), and child temperament (T2, T3). A path model was used to examine concurrent and longitudinal relations between these variables. Results The analyses indicated longitudinal stability of all constructs, as well as concurrent relations between them. Longitudinal relations supported child-to-parent, rather than parent-to-child, effects: child difficult temperament predicted decreases in perceived maternal parenting competences, but maternal variables did not predict change in infant temperament. In addition, we observed weak mutual relations between maternal depression levels and parenting competences, such that maternal depression diminished perceived parenting competences that in turn contributed to higher levels of depression. Conclusion Mothers’ confidence in their ability to parent is influenced by their experience with a difficult infant and by their depressive symptoms during the child’s first year of life. Depressive symptoms are, in turn, aggravated by mothers’ low perceived competences in the parenting role.