Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 33, Issue 5, pp 505-520

First online:

Childhood Temperament and Family Environment as Predictors of Internalizing and Externalizing Trajectories From Ages 5 to 17

  • Leslie D. LeveAffiliated withOregon Social Learning Center Email author 
  • , Hyoun K. KimAffiliated withOregon Social Learning Center
  • , Katherine C. PearsAffiliated withOregon Social Learning Center

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Childhood temperament and family environment have been shown to predict internalizing and externalizing behavior; however, less is known about how temperament and family environment interact to predict changes in problem behavior. We conducted latent growth curve modeling on a sample assessed at ages 5, 7, 10, 14, and 17 (N = 337). Externalizing behavior decreased over time for both sexes, and internalizing behavior increased over time for girls only. Two childhood variables (fear/shyness and maternal depression) predicted boys' and girls' age-17 internalizing behavior, harsh discipline uniquely predicted boys' age-17 internalizing behavior, and maternal depression and lower family income uniquely predicted increases in girls' internalizing behavior. For externalizing behavior, an array of temperament, family environment, and Temperament × Family Environment variables predicted age-17 behavior for both sexes. Sex differences were present in the prediction of externalizing slopes, with maternal depression predicting increases in boys' externalizing behavior only when impulsivity was low, and harsh discipline predicting increases in girls' externalizing behavior only when impulsivity was high or when fear/shyness was low.

Key Words

externalizing internalizing temperament family environment sex differences