Family Instability and Child Maladjustment Trajectories During Elementary School
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This study examines the relation between family instability and child maladjustment over a 6-year period in 369 children from four communities. Measures were collected annually from kindergarten through fifth grade. In associative growth curve models, family instability trajectories predicted children's externalizing and internalizing behavior trajectories during this time period. High levels of family instability also incrementally predicted the likelihood of meeting criteria for a DSM IV diagnosis during elementary school, above and beyond prediction from earlier measures of maladjustment. However, the timing of family instability had a different effect on externalizing versus internalizing disorders. In general, stronger relations were found between family instability and externalizing behaviors relative to internalizing behaviors, although children with comorbid disorders experienced the highest levels of family instability.
KEY WORDS:family instability life events externalizing internalizing trajectory
This paper is based on part of the first author's dissertation. The Fast Track project has been supported by NIMH Grants RI8 MH 48043, RI8 MH 50951, RI8 MH 50952, and R18 MH 50953. The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention also has provided support for Fast Track through a memorandum of agreement with the NIMH. This work was also supported in part by Department of Education Grant S 184U30002 and NIMH Grants K05 MH 0079.
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