Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-v5vhk Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-21T05:49:53.186Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

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


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).

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

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Asbury, K., Dunn, J. F., Pike, A., & Plomin, R. (2003). Nonshared environmental influences on individual differences in early behavioral development: A monozygotic twin differences study. Child Development, 74, 933–943.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Bagwell, C. L., Newcomb, A. F., & Bukowski, W. M. (1998). Preadolescent friendship and peer rejection as predictors of adult adjustment. Child Development, 69, 140–153.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Barber, B. K. (1996). Parental psychological control: Revisiting a neglected construct. Child Development, 67, 3296–3319.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Baydar, N., Brooks-Gunn, J., & Furstenberg, F. F. (1993). Early warning signs of functional illiteracy: Predictors in childhood and adolescence. Child Development, 64, 815–829.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Benson, M. L. (2001). Crime and the life course. Los Angeles: Roxbury.Google Scholar
Boulerice, B. (2001). General Nonlinear Mixtures of Curves (MOC) [Unpublished statistical software program]. Retrieved from
Broidy, L. M., Nagin, D. S., Tremblay, R. E., Bates, J. E., Brame, B., Dodge, K. A., et al. (2003). Developmental trajectories of childhood disruptive behaviors and adolescent delinquency: A six site, cross-national study. Developmental Psychology, 39, 222–245.CrossRef
Chorpita, B. F., & Barlow, D. H. (1998). The development of anxiety: The role of control in the early environment. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 3–21.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Collins, W. A., van Dulmen, M., & Egeland, B. (2006). The significance of middle childhood peer competence for work and relationships in early adulthood. In Huston, A. C. & Ripke, M. N. (Eds.), Developmental contexts in middle childhood: Bridges to adolescence and adulthood (pp. 23–40). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Deater-Deckard, K., Dunn, J., O'Connor, T. G., Davies, L., & Golding, J. (2001). Using the stepfamily genetic design to examine gene-environment processes in child and family functioning. Marriage and Family Review, 33, 131–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Egeland, B., Carlson, E., & Sroufe, L. A. (1993). Resilience as process. Development and Psychopathology, 5, 517–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Eisenberg, N., Fabes, R. A., & Murphy, B. C. (1996). Parents' reactions to children's negative emotions: Relations to children's social competence and comforting behavior. Child Development, 67, 2227–2247.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Eisenberg, N., Guthrie, I. K., Murphy, B. C., Shepard, S. A., Cumberland, A., & Gustavo, C. (1999). Consistency and development of prosocial dispositions: A longitudinal study. Child Development, 70, 1360–1372.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Elder, G. H. (1995). The life course paradigm: Social change and individual development. In Moen, P., Elder, G. H., & Luscher, K. (Eds.), Examining lives in context: Perspectives on the ecology of human development (pp. 101–135). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Elder, G. H. (1996). Human lives in changing societies: Life course and developmental insights. In Cairns, R. B., Elder, G. H., , Jr., & Costello, E. J. (Eds), Developmental science (pp. 31–62). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Emery, R. E. (1999). Marriage, divorce, and children's adjustment (2nd ed.). New York: Sage.Google Scholar
Emery, R. E. (2001). Interparental conflict and social policy. In Grych, J. H. and Fincham, F. D. (Eds.), Interparental conflict and child development: Theory, research, and applications (pp. 417–439). London: Cambridge University Press.CrossRef
Fincham, F., Grych, J. H., & Osborne, L. N. (1994). Does marital conflict cause child maladjustment? Directions and challenges for longitudinal research. Journal of Family Psychology, 8, 128–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Garmezy, N., & Masten, A. S. (1994). Chronic adversities. In Rutter, M., Herzov, L., & Taylor, E. (Eds.), Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (3rd ed., pp. 191–208). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
George, L. K. (1999). Life-course perspectives on mental health. In Aneshensel, C. S. & Phelan, J. C. (Eds.), Handbook of sociology of mental health. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grusec, J. E. (2002). Parenting and the socialization of values. In Bornstein, M. (Ed.), Handbook of parenting (pp. 143–168). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Grusec, J. E., Davidov, M., & Lundell, L. (2002). Prosocial and helping behavior. In Smith, P. & Hart, C. (Eds.), Handbook of children's social development (pp. 457–474). New York: Blackwell.Google Scholar
Grusec, J. E., & Goodnow, J. J. (1994). The impact of parental discipline methods on the child's internalization of values: A reconceptualization of current points of view. Developmental Psychology, 30, 4–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grych, J. H., Fincham, F. D., Jouriles, E. N., & McDonald, R. (2001). Interparental conflict and child adjustment: Testing the mediational role of appraisals in the cognitive contextual framework. Child Development, 71, 1648–1661.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Huesmann, L. R., Dubow, E. F., Eron, L. D., & Boxer, P. (2006). Middle childhood family contextual factors as predictors of adult outcomes. In Huston, A. C. & Ripke, M. N. (Eds.), Developmental contexts in middle childhood: Bridges to adolescence and adulthood (pp. 62–86). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jaffee, S. R., & Poulton, R. (2006). Reciprocal effects of mothers' depression and children's problem behaviors from middle childhood to early adolescence. In Huston, A. C. & Ripke, M. N. (Eds.), Developmental contexts in middle childhood: Bridges to adolescence and adulthood. (pp. 107–129) New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Johnson, J. G., Cohen, P., Kasen, S., Smailes, E., & Brook, J. S. (2001). Association of maladaptive parental behavior with psychiatric disorder among parents and their offspring. Archives of General Psychiatry, 58, 453–460.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Jones, B. L., Nagin, D. S., & Roeder, K. (2001). A SAS procedure based on mixture models for estimating developmental trajectories. Sociological Methods and Research, 29, 374–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jones, D. C., Abbey, B. B., & Cumberland, A. (1998). The development of display rule knowledge: Linkages with family expressiveness and social competence. Child Development, 69, 1209–1222.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kaslow, M. H., Deering, C. G., & Racusia, G. R. (1994). Depressed children and their families. Clinical Psychological Review, 14, 39–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Magnusson, D., & Cairns, R. B. (1996). Developmental science: Toward a unified framework. In Cairns, R. B., Elder, G. H., & Costello, E. J. (Eds.), Developmental science (pp. 7–30).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Masten, A. S., & Wright, M. O'D. (1997). Cumulative risk and protection models of child maltreatment. In Rossman, B. B. R. & Rosenberg, M. S. (Eds.), Multiple victimization of children: Conceptual, developmental, research and treatment issues. Binghampton, NY: Haworth Press.Google Scholar
Mayer, K. U., & Muller, W. (1986). The state and the structure of the life course. In Sorenson, A. B., Winert, F. E., & Sherrod, L. R. (Eds.), Human development and the life course: Multidisciplinary perspectives (pp. 217–245). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
McEwan, B. S. (1998). Protective and damaging effects of stress mediators. New England Journal of Medicine, 338, 171–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McGrath, M. P., Zook, J. M., & Weber-Roehl, L. (2003). Socializing prosocial behavior in children: The roles of parents and peers. In Shohov, S. (Ed.), Advances in psychological research (pp. 53–59). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.Google Scholar
Nagin, D. S. (1999). Analyzing developmental trajectories: A semiparametric, group-based approach. Psychological Methods, 4, 139–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nolen-Hoeksema, S., Wolfson, A., Mumme, D., & Guskin, K. (1995). Helplessness in children of depressed and nondepressed mothers. Developmental Psychology, 31, 377–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
O'Connor, T. G., Deater-Deckard, K., Fulker, D., Rutter, M., & Plomin, R. (1998). Genotype-environment correlations in late childhood and early adolescence: Antisocial behavior problems and coercive parenting. Developmental Psychology, 34, 970–981.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Pagani, L. S., Boulerice, B., Tremblay, R. E., & Vitaro, F. (1997). Behavioural development in children of divorce and remarriage. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 38, 769–781.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Parker, J. G., & Asher, S. R. (1987). Peer relations and later personal adjustment: Are low-accepted children at risk?Psychological Bulletin, 102, 335–389.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Patterson, G. R. (2002). The early development of coercive family process. In Reid, J. B. & Patterson, G. R. (Eds.), Antisocial behavior in children and adolescents: A developmental analysis and model for intervention (pp. 25–44). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
Repetti, R. L., Taylor, S. E., & Seeman, T. E. (2002). Risky families: Family social environments and the mental and physical health of offspring. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 330–366.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Rothbaum, F., & Weisz, J. R. (1994). Parental caregiving and child externalizing behavior in nonclinical samples: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 116, 55–74.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Rutter, M. (1987). Psychological resistance and protective mechanisms. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 57, 317–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rutter, M. (1989). Pathways from childhood to adult life. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 30, 23–51.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Rutter, M. (1990). Psychosocial resilience and protective mechanisms. In Rolf, J. E., Masten, A. S., & Cicchetti, D. (Eds.), Risk and protective factors in the development of psychopathology (pp. 181–214). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rutter, M. (1994). Beyond longitudinal data: Causes, consequences, changes, and continuity. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology. 62, 928–940.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Rutter, M. (2002). Family influences on behavior and development: Challenges for the future. In McHale, J. P. & Grolnick, W. S. (Eds.), Retrospect and prospect in the psychological study of families (pp. 321–351). New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
Rutter M., Champion, L., Quinton, D., Maughan, B., & Pickles, A. (1995). Understanding individual differences in environmental risk exposure. In Moen, P., Elder, G. H., & Luscher, K. (Eds.), Examining lives in context: Perspectives on the ecology of human development (pp. 61–93). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Steinberg, L., Lambron, S. D., Darling, N., Mounts, N. S., & Dornbusch, S. M. (1994). Over-time changes in adjustment and competence among adolescents from authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent, and neglectful families. Child Development, 65, 754–770.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Suomi, S. (1997). Early determinants of behavior: Evidence from primate studies. British Medical Bulletin, 53, 170–184.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Tremblay, R. E., Pihl, R. O., Vitaro, F., & Dobkin, P. L. (1994). Predicting early onset of male antisocial behavior from preschool behavior: A test of two personality theories. Archives of General Psychiatry, 51, 732–739.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tremblay, R. E., Vitaro, F., Nagin, D., Pagani, L., & Séguin, J. R. (2003). The Montreal longitudinal and experimental study: Rediscovering the power of descriptions. In Thornberry, T. and Krohn, M. D. (Eds.), Taking stock of delinquency: An overview of findings from contemporary longitudinal studies (pp. 205–254). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.Google Scholar
Wagner, B. M. (1997). Family risk factors for child and adolescent suicidal behavior. Psychological Bulletin, 121, 246–298.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Willms, D. J., & Shields, M. (1996). A measure of socioeconomic status for the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth. Fredericton, NB, Canada: Atlantic Center for Policy Research in Education, University of New Brunswick and Statistics Canada.Google Scholar
Wyatt, J. M., & Carlo, G. (2002). What will my parents think? Relations among adolescents' expected parental reactions, prosocial moral reasoning, and prosocial and antisocial behaviors. Journal of Adolescent Research, 17, 646–666.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats