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7 - Middle Childhood Life Course Trajectories: Links Between Family Dysfunction and Children's Behavioral Development

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 September 2009

Linda S. Pagani
Affiliation:
Professor at the School of Psycho-Education, University of Montreal
Christa Japel
Affiliation:
Professor in the Department of Specialized Education and Training, University of Quebec at Montreal
Alain Girard
Affiliation:
Statistician for the Research Unit on Children's Psycho-Social Maladjustment, University of Montreal
Abdeljelil Farhat
Affiliation:
Statistician for the Center of Excellence in Early Childhood Development, University of Montreal
Sylvana Côté
Affiliation:
Assistant Professor at the School of Psycho-Education, University of Montreal
Richard E. Tremblay
Affiliation:
Research Chair in Child Development and Professor for the Departments of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Pediatrics, University of Montreal
Aletha C. Huston
Affiliation:
University of Texas, Austin
Marika N. Ripke
Affiliation:
University of Hawaii, Manoa
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Summary

In their extensive review of the literature on family adversity, Repetti, Taylor, and Seeman (2002) offer their conception of “risky families” as those that offer low warmth and support and are neglectful. Children in such families are likely to show disruptions in emotion processing, social cognition, and regulatory systems involving stress responses, as well as poor health behaviors across the life span. Exposure to conflict and aggression, frequent concomitants of prolonged dysfunctional family relations, encourages deficits in the control and expression of emotion and social competence, disturbances in physiologic and neuroendocrine system regulation, and health threatening addictions. That is, persistent family stress may disrupt the basic homeostatic processes that are central to development by repeatedly activating important bodily systems. Drawing upon the cumulative risk concept of allostatic loading (McEwan, 1998), the biopsychosocial challenge model suggests that children growing in risky environments face a compounded “cascade of risk” for mental and physical health disorders across the life span.

In youngsters, such outcomes manifest themselves most often as behavior problems (Tremblay, Vitaro, Nagin, Pagani, & Séguin, 2003). Some behavior-based research has documented an increased risk of behavioral difficulty in association with parental conflict (Emery, 1999; 2001; Fincham, Grych, & Osborne, 1994; Grych, Fincham, Jouriles, & McDonald, 2001; Wagner, 1997), control (Barber, 1996), coercion, and counter-coercion (Rothbaum & Weisz, 1994; O'Connor, Deater-Deckard, Fulker, Rutter, & Plomin, 1998; Patterson, 2002).

Type
Chapter
Information
Developmental Contexts in Middle Childhood
Bridges to Adolescence and Adulthood
, pp. 130 - 149
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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