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Parenting can protect against the development of, or increase risk for, child psychopathology; however, it is unclear if parenting is related to psychopathology symptoms in a specific domain, or to broad liability for psychopathology. Parenting differs between and within families, and both overall family-level parenting and the child-specific parenting a child receives may be important in estimating transdiagnostic associations with psychopathology. Data come from a cross-sectional epidemiological sample (N = 10,605 children ages 4–17, 6434 households). Parents rated child internalizing and externalizing symptoms and their parenting toward each child. General and specific (internalizing, externalizing) psychopathology factors, derived with bifactor modeling, were regressed on parenting using multilevel modeling. Less warmth and more aversive/inconsistent parenting in the family, and toward an individual child relative to family average, were associated with higher general psychopathology and specific externalizing problems. Unexpectedly, more warmth in the family, and toward an individual child relative to family average, was associated with higher specific internalizing problems in 4–11 (not 12–17) year-olds. Less warmth and more aversive/inconsistent parenting are broad correlates of child psychopathology. Aversive/inconsistent parenting, is also related to specific externalizing problems. Parents may behave more warmly when their younger children have specific internalizing problems, net of overall psychopathology.
The field of psychopathology is in a transformative phase, and is witnessing a renewed surge of interest in theoretical models of mental disorders. While many interesting proposals are competing for attention in the literature, they tend to focus narrowly on the proximate level of analysis and lack a broader understanding of biological function. In this paper, we present an integrative framework for mental disorders built on concepts from life history theory, and describe a taxonomy of mental disorders based on its principles, the fast–slow–defense model (FSD). The FSD integrates psychopathology with normative individual differences in personality and behavior, and allows researchers to draw principled distinctions between broad clusters of disorders, as well as identify functional subtypes within current diagnostic categories. Simulation work demonstrates that the model can explain the large-scale structure of comorbidity, including the apparent emergence of a general “p factor” of psychopathology. A life history approach also provides novel integrative insights into the role of environmental risk/protective factors and the developmental trajectories of various disorders.
The Atypical Maternal Behavior Instrument for Assessment and Classification (AMBIANCE; Bronfman, Madigan, & Lyons-Ruth, 2009–2014; Bronfman, Parsons, & Lyons-Ruth, 1992–2004) is a widely used and well-validated measure for assessing disrupted forms of caregiver responsiveness within parent–child interactions. However, it requires evaluating approximately 150 behavioral items from videotape and extensive training to code, thus making its use impractical in most clinical contexts. Accordingly, the primary aim of the current study was to identify a reduced set of behavioral indicators most central to the AMBIANCE coding system using latent-trait item response theory (IRT) models. Observed mother–infant interaction data previously coded with the AMBIANCE was pooled from laboratories in both North America and Europe (N = 343). Using 2-parameter logistic IRT models, a reduced set of 45 AMBIANCE items was identified. Preliminary convergent and discriminant validity was evaluated in relation to classifications of maternal disrupted communication assigned using the full set of AMBIANCE indicators, to infant attachment disorganization, and to maternal sensitivity. The results supported the construct validity of the refined item set, opening the way for development of a brief screening measure for disrupted maternal communication. IRT models in clinical scale refinement and their potential for bridging clinical and research objectives in developmental psychopathology are discussed.
The codevelopment of symptoms of depression and socially prescribed perfectionism across adolescence (age 12–17) and non–age-overlapping childhood predictors (age 10–11) of joint trajectory group membership were examined in a sample of 700 Canadian youth. Results indicated that most adolescents (75.8%) followed a trajectory of low depression symptoms (low stable), whereas 15.7% followed an increasing trajectory (increasing), and 8.5% followed a trajectory that began high and decreased over time (high decreasing). More girls than boys were found in the increasing and high decreasing depression trajectories. Adolescents followed three distinct trajectories of socially prescribed perfectionism: 41.6% were in a low stable group, 40.5% in a moderate increasing group, and 17.9% in a high increasing group. Eight percent followed a high-risk dual trajectory of increasing depression and high increasing socially prescribed perfectionism. This joint trajectory was predicted by being bullied, anxious, and relationally aggressive (compared to the low-risk trajectory of low stable depression and perfectionism) at ages 10 and 11. These same predictors, along with poorer family functioning and lower family income, differentiated the joint high decreasing depression/high increasing perfectionism group from the low/low joint group, which comprised of 3.8% of the sample. The developmental progression was best characterized as depression leading to socially prescribed perfectionism. Implications for clinical practice are discussed.
This paper reports the first large-sample investigation of the maltreatment-related correlates of low-income adolescents’ narratives about their childhood experiences with primary caregivers, as assessed with a modified version of the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) and based on official reports of abuse and neglect (maltreated n = 214, nonmaltreated n = 140; M age = 16.7 years). Drawing on factor-analytic and taxometric evidence indicating that AAI narratives vary along two state of mind (i.e., dismissing and preoccupied) and two inferred childhood experience (i.e., maternal and paternal) dimensions, here we demonstrate that the experience of maltreatment, particularly when chronic, is associated with increased risk for dismissing and preoccupied states of mind and more negative inferred childhood experiences. Although such maltreatment-related associations were generally not specific to any of the four AAI dimensions, the experience of physical and/or sexual abuse was uniquely associated with preoccupied states of mind and negative inferred paternal experiences even after controlling for the other AAI dimensions. More extensive paternal perpetration of maltreatment also was uniquely related to more negative inferred paternal experiences.
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.
The co-occurring development of internalizing and externalizing problems were examined in an inception cohort of 392 children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at age 3 who were assessed on four occasions. Results indicated that internalizing and externalizing problems were stable over time and highly comorbid. Joint trajectory analysis suggested that 13% of the sample followed a dual high-risk trajectory. High risk was not found to be associated with intellectual ability or autism spectrum disorder symptom severity but was linked to lower income and gender: more girls than boys were found in the high/stable internalizing problems trajectory. The results suggest that 1 in 4 preschoolers followed a trajectory of internalizing or externalizing problems (or a combination of the two) that could be characterized as clinically elevated.
A fundamental question in the discipline of developmental psychopathology is whether early interpersonal experiences influence maladaptation in enduring or transient ways. We address this issue by applying a structural modeling approach developed by us to examine data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development on maternal sensitivity in the first 3 years of life and its association with symptoms of psychopathology through age 15. Results suggest that there may be enduring effects of early caregiving experiences on symptomatology as rated by teachers, although such effects were not found for maternal report. Additional analyses indicated that enduring associations found via teacher report could not be fully accounted for by continuity in caregiving experiences or by early contextual adversity.
This report describes the state of the art in distinguishing data generated by differential susceptibility from diathesis–stress models. We discuss several limitations of existing practices for probing interaction effects and offer solutions that are designed to better differentiate differential susceptibility from diathesis–stress models and quantify their corresponding implications. In addition, we demonstrate the utility of these methods by revisiting published evidence suggesting that temperamental difficulty serves as a marker of enhanced susceptibility to early maternal caregiving across a range of outcome domains in the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. We find that, with the exception of mother reports of psychopathology, there is consistent evidence in the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development that the predictive significance of early sensitivity is moderated by difficult temperament over time. However, differential susceptibility effects emerged primarily for teacher reports of academic skills, social competence, and symptomatology. In contrast, effects more consistent with the diathesis–stress model were obtained for mother reports of social skills and objective tests of academic skills. We conclude by discussing the value of the application of this work to the next wave of Gene × Environment studies focused on early caregiving experiences.
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