Predicting growth curves of early childhood externalizing problems: Differential susceptibility of children with difficult temperament

J. Mesman, R. Stoel, M.J. Bakermans-Kranenburg, M.H. van IJzendoorn, F. Juffer, H.M. Koot, L.R.A. Alink

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Abstract

Using an accelerated longitudinal design, the development of externalizing problems from age 2 to 5 years was investigated in relation to maternal psychopathology, maternal parenting, gender, child temperament, and the presence of siblings. The sample consisted of 150 children selected at age 2-3 years for having high levels of externalizing problems. Parenting was measured using observational methods, and maternal reports were used for the other variables. Overall, mean levels of externalizing problems decreased over time, and higher initial levels (intercept) were related to a stronger decrease (negative slope) in externalizing problems. Results showed that higher levels of maternal psychopathology were related to less decrease in early childhood externalizing problems. Parental sensitive behavior predicted a stronger decrease in externalizing problems, but only for children with difficult temperaments. A stronger decrease of externalizing problems in children with older siblings also pertained only to children with difficult temperaments. Thus, temperamentally difficult children appear to be more susceptible to environmental influences on the development of externalizing behaviors. Our results indicate that the role of siblings in early childhood externalizing problems deserves more research attention, and that intervention efforts need to take into account temperamental differences in children's susceptibility to environmental influences. © 2009 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)625-636
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Volume37
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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