Temperamental characteristics as predictors of externalizing and internalizing child behavior problems in the contexts of high and low parental psychopathology

Eun Young Mun, Hiram E. Fitzgerald, Alexander Von Eye, Leon I. Puttler, Robert A. Zucker

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46 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study investigated whether the relationships between dimensions of early child temperament and externalizing and internalizing behavior problems differ in relation to the degree of parental psychopathology to which children are exposed. In addition, the reciprocal relation between externalizing and internalizing behavior problems, and stability patterns (i.e., autoregression) of externalizing and internalizing behavior problems were investigated using a two-group structural model. A sample of 215 boys (mean age = 4.22) and their parents were assessed when the boys were 3-5 years old and again when they were 6-8 years old. For the children of parents with two or more lifetime psychopathology diagnoses, high activity, short attention span/distractibility, and high reactivity were linked to externalizing behavior problems, whereas withdrawal was linked to internalizing behavior problems. For children from low parental psychopathology families, only reactivity was linked to externalizing behavior problems, whereas withdrawal was linked to internalizing behavior problems. Children from high parental psychopathology families (alcohol use disorder and antisocial personality disorder) showed lower stability (autoregression) estimates of behavior problems. The reciprocal relation between externalizing and internalizing behavior problems was supported when children were 6-8 years old, but not when they were 3-5 years old.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-415
Number of pages23
JournalInfant Mental Health Journal
Volume22
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2001

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