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This paper proposes a model for developmental psychopathology that is informed by recent research suggestive of a single model of mental health disorder (the p factor) and seeks to integrate the role of the wider social and cultural environment into our model, which has previously been more narrowly focused on the role of the immediate caregiving context. Informed by recently emerging thinking on the social and culturally driven nature of human cognitive development, the ways in which humans are primed to learn and communicate culture, and a mentalizing perspective on the highly intersubjective nature of our capacity for affect regulation and social functioning, we set out a cultural-developmental approach to psychopathology.
Survivors of pediatric sarcomas often experience greater psychological and psychosocial difficulties than their non-afflicted peers. We consider findings related to poorer outcomes from a developmental cascade perspective. Specifically, we discuss how physical, neurocognitive, psychological, and psychosocial costs associated with pediatric sarcomas and their treatment function transactionally to degrade well-being in long-term pediatric sarcoma survivors. We situate the sarcoma experience as a broad developmental threat – one stemming from both the presence and treatment of a life-imperiling disease, and the absence of typical childhood experiences. Ways in which degradation in one developmental domain spills over and effects other domains are highlighted. We argue that the aggregate effect of these cascades is two-fold: first, it adds to the typical stress involved in meeting developmental milestones and navigating developmental transitions; and second, it deprives survivors of crucial coping strategies that mitigate these stressors. This position suggests specific moments of intervention and raises specific hypotheses for investigators to explore.
Maternal substance use has often been associated with insecure and disorganized child attachment. We evaluated this association with a meta-analysis of young children and, further, systematically reviewed mediating and moderating factors between maternal substance use and child attachment. We performed a systematic database search of quantitative English language studies on child attachment that included substance-using mothers and their children below 6 years of age. Eleven studies (N = 1,841) met the inclusion criteria and were included in the meta-analysis of attachment security and seven (N = 1,589) studies were included in the meta-analysis of attachment disorganization. We found that maternal substance use was negatively associated with secure attachment in children, but the effect size was small (r = −.10). The association with disorganized attachment was not significant (r = .15). Related to moderating and mediating factors (k = 6), we found evidence on the role of teratogenic and sociological factors on child attachment. Most importantly, the impact of cumulative risks was vital. However, literature was scarce, and studies varied in risk of bias, leaving many unanswered questions on other potential factors underlying the development of attachment in these high-risk children. We discuss the results considering clinical implications and future directions.
The current study investigated 304 children from a longitudinal project (the Stress in Pregnancy (SIP) Study) who were exposed and unexposed to Superstorm Sandy (“Sandy”) in utero. They were prospectively followed from 2 to 6 years of age and their clinical and adaptive behaviors were assessed annually. Using a hierarchical linear model, the study found that in utero Sandy exposure was associated with greater clinical (anxiety, depression, and somatization) and lower adaptive behaviors (social skills and functional communication) at age 2 years. However, the trajectories were notably different between the two groups. Anxiety increased more rapidly among the exposed than unexposed group at ages 2–4, and depression increased only among the exposed. In contrast, social skills and functional communication were lower in exposed compared to unexposed children at age 2, but quickly increased and exceeded the capacities of unexposed children by age 3. The findings confirm that prenatal Sandy exposure is not only associated with an increase in anxiety, depression, and somatization in offspring, but also with greater adaptive skills as the children got older. Our study demonstrates that while children who have experienced stress in utero demonstrate elevated suboptimal clinical behaviors related to affective disorders, they nevertheless have the potential to learn adaptive skills.
Exposure to childhood maltreatment (CM) may disrupt typical development of neural systems underlying impulse control and emotion regulation. Yet resilient outcomes are observed in some individuals exposed to CM. Individual differences in adult functioning may result from variation in inhibitory control in the context of emotional distractions, underpinned by cognitive–affective brain circuits. Thirty-eight healthy adults with a history of substantiated CM and 34 nonmaltreated adults from the same longitudinal sample performed a Go/No-Go task in which task-relevant stimuli (letters) were presented at the center of task-irrelevant, negative, or neutral images, while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging. The comparison group, but not the maltreated group, made increased inhibitory control errors in the context of negative, but not neutral, distractor images. In addition, the comparison group had greater right inferior frontal gyrus and bilateral frontal pole activation during inhibitory control blocks with negative compared to neutral background images relative to the CM group. Across the full sample, greater adaptive functioning in everyday contexts was associated with superior inhibitory control and greater right frontal pole activation. Results suggest that resilience following early adversity is associated with enhanced attention and behavioral regulation in the context of task-irrelevant negative emotional stimuli in a laboratory setting.
Identifying the potential pathways linking childhood abuse to depression and suicidal ideation is critical for developing effective interventions. This study investigated implicit self-esteem—unconscious valenced self-evaluation—as a potential pathway linking childhood abuse with depression and suicidal ideation. A sample of youth aged 8–16 years (N = 240) completed a self-esteem Implicit Association Test (IAT) and assessments of abuse exposure, and psychopathology symptoms, including depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, and externalizing symptoms. Psychopathology symptoms were re-assessed 1–3 years later. Childhood abuse was positively associated with baseline and follow-up depression symptoms and suicidal ideation severity, and negatively associated with implicit self-esteem. Lower implicit self-esteem was associated with both depression and suicidal ideation assessed concurrently and predicted significant increases in depression and suicidal ideation over the longitudinal follow-up period. Lower implicit self-esteem was also associated with baseline anxiety, externalizing symptoms, and a general psychopathology factor (i.e. p-factor). We found an indirect effect of childhood abuse on baseline and follow-up depression symptoms and baseline suicidal ideation through implicit self-esteem. These findings point to implicit self-esteem as a potential mechanism linking childhood abuse to depression and suicidal ideation.
Contamination, when members of a comparison or control condition are exposed to the event or intervention under scientific investigation, is a methodological phenomenon that downwardly biases the magnitude of effect size estimates. This study tested a novel approach for controlling contamination in observational child maltreatment research. Data from The Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect (LONGSCAN; N = 1354) were obtained to estimate the risk of confirmed child maltreatment on trajectories of internalizing and externalizing behaviors before and after controlling contamination. Baseline models, where contamination was uncontrolled, demonstrated a risk for greater internalizing (b = .29, p < .001, d = .40) and externalizing (b = .14, p = .040, d = .19) behavior trajectories. Final models, where contamination was controlled by separating the comparison condition into subgroups that did or did not self-report maltreatment, also demonstrated risks for greater internalizing (b = .37, p < .001, d = .51) and externalizing (b = .22, p = .028, d = .29) behavior trajectories. However, effect size estimates in final models were 27.5%–52.6% larger compared to baseline models. Controlling contamination in child maltreatment research can strengthen effect size estimates for child behavior problems, aiding future child maltreatment research design and analysis.
This study tested the independent effects and interactions of sympathetic nervous system reactivity and hostile attribution biases (HAB) in predicting change in pure and co-occurring relational bullying and victimization experiences over one year. Co-occurring and pure relational bullying and victimization experiences were measured using a dimensional bifactor model, aiming to address methodological limitations of categorical approaches, using data from 300 preschoolers (Mage = 44.70 months, SD = 4.38). Factor scores were then saved and used in nested path analyses with a subset of participants (n = 81) to test main study hypotheses regarding effects of HAB and skin conductance level reactivity (SCL-R). Bifactor models provided good fit to the data at two independent time points. HAB and SCL-R interacted to predict increases in co-occurring relational bullying/victimization with evidence for over- and underarousal pathways.
Violence exposure during childhood and adolescence is associated with a range of negative psychosocial outcomes. Research examining the impact of violence exposure has been limited by the compartmentalization into separate bodies of research (e.g., community violence, domestic violence). There is also a paucity of research examining long-term adult outcomes. Using a large and racially diverse sample (n = 754; male = 58%; Black = 46%), the current longitudinal study aimed to elucidate the comparative and cumulative effect of different types of violence exposure (witnessing vs. victimization) across different locations (home, school, neighborhood) in childhood and adolescence (lifetime through Grade 8) on long-term internalizing, externalizing, and attention problems; substance use; and intimate partner violence in adulthood (age 25). Victimization, but not witnessing violence, predicted all five adult outcomes. Specifically, being victimized at home was associated with the widest range of negative outcomes (internalizing, externalizing, and attention problems), while school victimization was associated with substance use. Further, when youth experienced multiple types of violence across multiple locations (cumulative violence exposure), they experienced a more diverse range of negative outcomes in adulthood (composite score). The current study highlights the stronger effects of violence exposure in more proximal contexts, and how these locations are important for emotional and behavioral development.
School victimization has been negatively associated with children's social status. However, previous studies have primarily focused on peer victimization, leaving a significant knowledge gap regarding violence by teachers. We hypothesized that, when almost all children experience violence by teachers, not only the experience of violence, but also other factors, for example, mental health problems, may influence children's social preference and centrality. We therefore examined potential moderation effects of children's internalizing and externalizing problems. We implemented a multistage cluster randomized sampling approach to randomly chose fifth- and sixth-grade students from primary schools throughout Tanzania. Using a multi-informant approach, data were collected from 643 children (51.0% girls, Mage = 12.79 years). Results showed inconsistent direct associations between teacher violence and social status, whereas mental health problems were consistently associated with lower social status. Significant interaction effects were found for internalizing problems; that is, teacher violence was associated with lower social status for increasing internalizing problems. However, no interaction effects were found for externalizing problems. The findings underline the burden of exposure to violence by teachers and the importance of mental health for children's social functioning. Knowledge about interrelations can be applied in interventions to effectively reduce violence by teachers toward students.
Exposure to chronic early trauma carries lasting effects on children's well-being and adaptation. Guided by models on resilience, we assessed the interplay of biological, emotional, cognitive, and relational factors in shaping two regulatory outcomes in trauma-exposed youth: emotion recognition (ER) and executive functions (EF). A unique war-exposed cohort was followed from early childhood to early adolescence. At preadolescence (11–13 years), ER and EF were assessed and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), biomarker of parasympathetic regulation, was quantified. Mother–child dyadic reciprocity, child's avoidance symptoms, and cortisol (CT) were measured in early childhood. Trauma-exposed youth displayed impaired ER and EF abilities. Conditional process analysis described two differential indirect paths leading from early trauma to regulatory outcomes. ER was mediated by avoidance symptoms in early childhood and modulated by cortisol, such that this path was evident only for preadolescents with high, but not low, CT. In comparison, EF was mediated by the degree of dyadic reciprocity experienced in early childhood and modulated by RSA, observed only among youth with lower RSA. Findings pinpoint trauma-related disruptions to key regulatory support systems in preadolescence as mediated by early-childhood relational, clinical, and physiological factors and highlight the need to specify biobehavioral precursors of resilience toward targeted early interventions.
Positive health endpoints are not the opposite of negative endpoints. Previous studies examining posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD) and posttraumatic growth (PTG) trajectories have overlooked the co-existence of PTSD and PTG, making it difficult to accurately distinguish individuals with various posttraumatic presentations, causing the effects of targeted interventions to be discounted. To fill this gap, the current study sought to examine joint PTSD and PTG trajectories in children and adolescents. Eight hundred and seventy-six Chinese children and adolescents were recruited to complete self-report questionnaires 6, 12, and 18 months after the Ya'an earthquake. Multiple-process growth mixture modeling analysis was used to test the study proposal. Five distinct joint PTSD and PTG trajectory types were found: recovery, growth, struggling, resistant, and delayed symptoms. Female students and students who felt trapped or fearful were more likely to be in the struggling group, and students who experienced injury to themselves or family members were more likely to belong to the delayed symptom group. These findings suggest that postdisaster psychological services should be provided to relieve delayed symptoms in individuals who experience injury to themselves or their family members, and individuals in the struggling group should be supported to achieve growth.
Neuroticism is associated with increased stress reactivity. In autism spectrum disorders (ASD), emotional stress reactivity is increased and there is some evidence for an increased negative affect (NA) when with less familiar people. The aim of this study was to compare adults with ASD and controls on levels of neuroticism and on interactions between neuroticism and appraised stress or social context in models of NA. This is a cross-sectional observational study comprising a group of 50 adults with ASD and 51 controls. Experience sampling method (ESM) reports were collected for 10 days to measure daily life stress, mood, and social context. Multilevel regression analyses revealed significantly higher neuroticism levels in ASD than in controls. Adults with ASD who scored high on neuroticism showed a significantly stronger association between activity/social stress and NA (i.e., higher stress reactivity) than those with low scores. Furthermore, the association between neuroticism and NA was stronger when adults with ASD were with less familiar people compared with being alone or with familiar people. No consistent corresponding significant interactions were found in the control group. In conclusion, in ASD, neuroticism moderates the association between appraised stress and NA as well as the association between social context and NA.
Children exposed to prenatal maternal psychological distress are at elevated risk for a range of adverse outcomes; however, it remains poorly understood whether postnatal influences can ameliorate impairments related to prenatal distress. The current study evaluated if sensitivematernal care during the first postnatal year could mitigate child cognitive and emotional impairments associated with prenatal psychological distress. Prenatal maternal psychological distress was assessed via self-reports of anxiety, depression, and perceived stress for 136 mothers at five prenatal and four postpartum time points. Quality of maternal care (sensitivity to nondistress, positive regard, and intrusiveness reverse-scored) were assessed during a mother–child play interaction at 6 and 12 months. Child cognitive function and negative emotionality were assessed at 2 years, using The Bayley Scales and the Early Childhood Behavior Questionnaire. Elevated prenatal distress was associated with poorer child cognitive function and elevated negative emotionality. Children exposed to elevated prenatal maternal distress did not, however, display these outcomes if they received high-quality caregiving. Specifically, maternal care moderated the relation between prenatal psychological distress and child cognitive function and negative emotionality. This association remained after consideration of postnatal maternal psychological distress and relevant covariates. Sensitive maternal care was associated with altered offspring developmental trajectories, supporting child resilience following prenatal distress exposure.
One pathway by which environments of socioeconomic risk are thought to affect cognitive development is through stress physiology. The biological systems underpinning stress and attention undergo a sensitive period of development during infancy. Psychobiological theory emphasizes a dynamic pattern of context-dependent development, however, research has yet to examine how basal cortisol and attention dynamically covary across infancy in ecologically valid contexts. Thus, to address these gaps, we leveraged longitudinal, multilevel analytic methods to disentangle between- from within-person associations of hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis activity and executive attention behaviors across infancy. We use data from a large longitudinal sample (N = 1,292) of infants in predominantly low-income, nonurban communities at 7-, 15-, and 24-months of age. Using multilevel models, we investigated longitudinal associations of infant attention and basal cortisol levels and examined caregiving behaviors as moderators of this relationship. Results indicated a negative between- and within-person association between attention and cortisol across infancy and a within-person moderation by caregiver responsiveness. In other words, on the within-person level, higher levels of cortisol were concomitantly associated with lower infant attention across the first 2 years of life. However, variation in the caregiver's level of responsiveness either buffered or sensitized the executive attention system to the negative effects of physiological stress.
It is well established that mothers’ parenting impacts children's adjustment. However, much less is known about how children's psychopathology impacts their mothers’ parenting and how parenting and child symptoms relate either bidirectionally (i.e., a relationship in both directions over two time points) or transactionally (i.e., a process that unfolds over time) to one another over a span of several years. In addition, relatively little research addresses the role of fathers’ parenting in the development of children's symptoms and, conversely, how children may elicit certain types of parenting from fathers. In this study, data were collected from 491 families on mothers’ and fathers’ parenting styles (authoritarianism, authoritativeness, permissiveness, and overprotectiveness) and children's symptoms of psychopathology (attention deficit, oppositional defiant, depression, and anxiety) when children were age 3, 6, and 9 years old. Cross-lagged panel analyses revealed that parents and children affected one another in a bidirectional and transactional fashion over the course of the six years studied. Results suggest that children's symptoms may compound over time partially because they reduce exposure to adaptive and increase exposure to maladaptive parenting styles. Likewise, maladaptive parenting may persist over time due to the persistence of children's symptoms.
This study examined children's duration of attention to negative emotions (i.e., anger, sadness, fear) as a mediator of associations among maternal and paternal unsupportive parenting and children's externalizing symptoms in a sample of 240 mothers, fathers, and their preschool children (Mage = 4.64 years). The multimethod, multi-informant design consisted of three annual measurement occasions. Analysis of maternal and paternal unsupportive parenting as predictors in latent difference changes in children's affect-biased attention and behavior problems indicated that children's attention to negative emotions mediated the specific association between maternal unsupportive parenting and children's subsequent increases in externalizing symptoms. Maternal unsupportive parenting at Wave 1 predicted decreases in children's attention to negative facial expressions of adults from Wave 1 to 2. Reductions in children's attention to negative emotion, in turn, predicted increases in their externalizing symptoms from Wave 1 to 3. Additional tests of children's fearful distress and hostile responses to parental conflict as explanatory mechanisms revealed that increases in children's fearful distress reactivity from Wave 1 to 2 accounted for the association between maternal unsupportive parenting and concomitant decreases in their attention to negative emotions. Results are discussed in the context of information processing models of family adversity and developmental psychopathology.
The relation between peer victimization and depressive symptoms is complex, requiring the use of methodologically rigorous designs to examine these relations and potential mediating factors. The current study used a random intercepts cross-lagged panel model (RI-CLPM) to investigate both between-person and within-person associations in peer victimization, depressive symptoms, and family cohesion across five waves in a sample of adolescents (N = 801, ages 13–15 years at recruitment) in the Northeast. We also investigated the moderating effects of sex and victimization status (i.e., bullying victimization vs. peer victimization). Overall, findings revealed a reciprocal relation between peer victimization and depressive symptoms for females, but no relation for males. A reciprocal relation between peer victimization and family cohesion was found for males. No significant differences were found by victimization status. Future research on peer victimization and associated outcomes and the role of family should account for both between-person and within-person variance.
Adolescent risk for self-injurious thoughts and behaviors (STBs) involves disturbance across multiple systems (e.g., affective valence, arousal regulatory, cognitive and social processes). However, research integrating information across these systems is lacking. Utilizing a multiple-levels-of-analysis approach, this person-centered study identified psychobiological stress response profiles and linked them to cognitive processes, interpersonal behaviors, and STBs. At baseline, adolescent girls (N = 241, Mage = 14.68 years, Range = 12–17) at risk for STBs completed the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), questionnaires, and STB interviews. Positive affect (PA), negative affect (NA), and salivary cortisol (SC) were assessed before and after the TSST. STBs were assessed again during 3, 6, and 9 month follow-up interviews. Multitrajectory modeling of girls’ PA, NA, and SC revealed four profiles, which were compared on cognitive and behavioral correlates as well as STB outcomes. Relative to normative, girls in the affective distress, hyperresponsive, and hyporesponsive subgroups were more likely to report negative cognitive style (all three groups) and excessive reassurance seeking (hyporesponsive only) at baseline, as well as nonsuicidal self-injury (all three groups) and suicidal ideation and attempt (hyporesponsive only) at follow-up. Girls’ close friendship characteristics moderated several profile–STB links. A synthesis of the findings is presented alongside implications for person-centered tailoring of intervention efforts.
Although there is increasing attention for the interrelationship between obsessive–compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) and obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), their shared characteristics in terms of childhood trait antecedents remain understudied. Perfectionism may be a viable candidate trait antecedent, given its role in the clinical manifestation of both OCPD and OCD in adulthood, and the evidence that perfectionism reflects a dispositional tendency observable from childhood onwards. However, little is known about childhood trajectories of perfectionism with prospective links to later OCPD versus OCD. Using latent growth curve modeling, this study explored the baseline and growth of childhood perfectionism in 485 community and referred children (55.5% girls, 7.17–14.78 years old, Mage = 10.74, SD = 1.50) across three waves. Adolescent OCPD traits and OCD symptoms were measured in Wave 4. An overall decreasing trend of perfectionism from childhood through adolescence appeared, without inter-individual differences in growth. Individual differences in baseline levels of childhood perfectionism were significant, and equally predicting adolescent OCPD and OCD outcomes. At a more specific level, childhood perfectionism predicted most strongly the rigid perfectionism component of OCPD, and the orderliness/cleanliness/perfectionism and obsession domain of OCD. This demonstrates the value of childhood perfectionism for understanding differential outcomes of adolescent OCPD traits and OCD symptoms.