Skip to main content Accessibility help

Strategic considerations in the search for transactional processes: Methods for detecting and quantifying transactional signals in longitudinal data

  • Glenn I. Roisman (a1), R. Chris Fraley (a2), John D. Haltigan (a3), Elizabeth Cauffman (a4) and Cathryn Booth-Laforce (a5)...


Over the last four decades the transactional model has emerged as a central fixture of modern developmental science. Despite this, we are aware of no principled approach for determining (a) whether it is actually necessary to invoke transactional mechanisms to explain observed patterns of stability in a given domain of adaptive functioning and (b) the extent to which transactional processes, once identified in aggregate, are accounted for by measured domains with which an aspect of adaptive functioning is theoretically in transaction. Leveraging the fact that transactional mechanisms produce excess stability in an outcome domain above and beyond autoregressive processes, along with the basic logic of mediational analysis, we introduce two novel indexes for studying transactional processes strategically. We apply these metrics to data from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development cohort on mother- and teacher-reported externalizing problems and social competence along with teacher-reported and objective assessments of academic skills acquired in Grades 1, 3, and 5. During this developmental period we find that (a) transactional contributions to stability are strongest for teacher-reported outcomes, next strongest for mother-reported outcomes, and relatively weak for objective assessments of academic skills and (b) observed maternal sensitivity (but not child-reported friendship quality) accounts for a modest proportion of the total transactional effects operative in most of the domains of adaptive functioning we studied. Discussion focuses on extending the logic of our approach to additional waves of measurement.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Glenn I. Roisman, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, 51 East River Parkway, Minneapolis, MN 55455; E-mail:


Hide All
Achenbach, T. M. (1991). Integrative guide for the 1991 CBCL/4–18, YSR, and TRF profiles. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, Department of Psychiatry.
Achenbach, T. M., & Edelbrock, C. (1986). Manual for the Teacher's Report Form and teacher version of the Child Behavior Profile. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, Department of Psychiatry.
Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 11731182.
Berry, D., & Willoughby, M. T. (2016). On the practical interpretability of cross-lagged panel models: Once more unto the breach, dear friends? Manuscript submitted for publication.
Bollen, K. A. (1987). Total, direct, and indirect effects in structural equation models. Sociological Methodology, 17, 3769.
Booth-LaForce, C., & Roisman, G. I. (Eds). (2014). The Adult Attachment Interview: Psychometrics, stability and change from infancy, and developmental origins. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 79, 1185.
Campbell, D. T. (1963). From description to experimentation: Interpreting trends as quasi-experiments. In Harris, C. W. (Ed.), Problems in measuring change. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
Cicchetti, D., & Toth, S. L. (1997). Transactional ecological systems in developmental psychopathology. In Luthar, S. S., Burack, J., Cicchetti, D., & Weisz, J. (Eds.), Developmental psychopathology: Perspectives on adjustment, risk, and disorder (pp. 317349). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Cole, D. A., & Maxwell, S. E. (2003). Testing mediational models with longitudinal data: Questions and tips in the use of structural equation modeling. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 112, 558577.
De Los Reyes, A., Augenstein, T. M., Wang, M., Thomas, S. A., Drabick, D. A., Burgers, D. E., et al. (2015). The validity of the multi-informant approach to assessing child and adolescent mental health. Psychological Bulletin, 141, 858900.
Fraley, R. C., & Roberts, B. W. (2005). Patterns of continuity: A dynamic model for conceptualizing the stability of individual differences in psychological constructs across the life course. Psychological Review, 112, 6074.
Fraley, R. C., Roisman, G. I., & Haltigan, J. D. (2013). The legacy of early experiences in development: Formalizing alternative models of how early experiences are carried forward over time. Developmental Psychology, 49, 109126.
Gottlieb, G. (2007). Probabilistic epigenesis. Developmental Science, 10, 111.
Gresham, F. M., & Elliott, S. N. (1990). The social skills rating system. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.
Haltigan, J. D., Roisman, G. I., & Fraley, R. C. (2013). The predictive significance of early caregiving experiences for symptoms of psychopathology through mid-adolescence: Enduring or transient effects? Development and Psychopathology, 25, 209221.
Holmbeck, G. N. (1997). Toward terminological, conceptual, and statistical clarity in the study of mediators and moderators: Examples from the child-clinical and pediatric psychology literatures. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65, 599610.
Kenny, D. A. (1973). Cross-lagged and synchronous common factors in panel data. In Goldberger, A. S. & Duncan, O. D. (Eds.), Structural equation models in the social sciences. New York: Seminar Press.
Kenny, D. A. (1975). Cross-lagged panel correlation: A test for spuriousness. Psychological Bulletin, 82, 887.
Kenny, D. A., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (1979). Cross-lagged panel correlation: Practice and promise. Journal of Applied Psychology, 64, 372379.
Lynch, M., & Cicchetti, D. (1998). An ecological–transactional analysis of children and contexts: The longitudinal interplay among child maltreatment, community violence, and children's symptomatology. Development and Psychopathology, 10, 235257.
MacKinnon, D. P., & Dwyer, J. H. (1993). Estimating mediated effects in prevention studies. Evaluation Review, 17, 144158.
MacKinnon, D. P., Fairchild, A. J., & Fritz, M. S. (2007). Mediation analysis. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 593614.
Maguire-Jack, K., Gromoske, A. N., & Berger, L. M. (2012). Spanking and child development during the first five years of life. Child Development, 83, 19601977.
Masten, A. S., Roisman, G. I., Long, J. D., Burt, K. B., Obradović, J., & Riley, J. R., et al. (2005). Developmental cascades: Linking academic achievement and externalizing and internalizing symptoms over 20 years. Developmental Psychology, 41, 733746.
Múthen, K., & Múthen, B. O. (1998–2012). Mplus user's guide (6th ed.). Los Angeles: Author.
NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (2005). Child care and child development. New York: Guilford Press.
Parker, J. G., & Asher, S. R. (1993). Friendship and friendship quality in middle childhood: Links with peer group acceptance and feelings of loneliness and social dissatisfaction. Developmental Psychology, 29, 611621.
Patterson, G. R. (1976). The aggressive child: Victim and architect of a coercive system. In Mash, E. J., Hamerlynck, L. A., & Handy, L. C. (Eds.), Behavior modification and families (pp. 267316). New York: Brunner/Mazel.
Patterson, G. R. (1982). Coercive family process. Eugene, OR: Castalia.
Patterson, G. R., Reid, J. B., & Dishion, T. J. (1992). Antisocial boys. Eugene, OR: Castalia.
Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2008). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behavior Research Methods, 40, 879891.
Roisman, G. I., & Fraley, R. C. (2012). A behavior-genetic study of the legacy of early caregiving experiences: Academic skills, social competence, and externalizing behavior in kindergarten. Child Development, 83, 728742.
Scarr, S., & McCartney, K. (1983). How people make their own environments: A theory of genotype → environment effects. Child Development, 54, 424435.
Sameroff, A. J., & Chandler, M. J. (1975). Reproductive risk and the continuum of caretaking casualty. In Horowitz, F. D., Hetherington, E. M., Scarr-Salapatek, S., & Siegel, G. M. (Eds.), Review of child development research (4th ed., pp. 187244). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Sameroff, A. J., & MacKenzie, M. J. (2003). Research strategies for capturing transactional models of development: The limits of the possible. Development and Psychopathology, 15, 613640.
Sroufe, L. A., Egeland, B., Carlson, E. A., & Collins, W. A. (2005). The development of the person: The Minnesota Study of Risk and Adaptation from Birth to Adulthood. New York: Guilford Press.
Van Goozen, S. H. M., Fairchild, G., Snoek, H., & Harold, G. T. (2007). The evidence for a neurobiological model of childhood antisocial behavior. Psychological Bulletin, 133, 149182.
Woodcock, R. W. (1990). Theoretical foundations of the WJ-R measures of cognitive ability. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 8, 231258.
Woodcock, R. W., & Johnson, M. B. (1989). Woodcock–Johnson Psycho-Educational Battery—Revised. Allen, TX: DLM.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed