Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 217–228 | Cite as

Interrelations of Maternal Expressed Emotion, Maltreatment, and Separation/Divorce and Links to Family Conflict and Children’s Externalizing Behavior

  • Angela NarayanEmail author
  • Dante Cicchetti
  • Fred A. Rogosch
  • Sheree L. Toth


Research has documented that maternal expressed emotion-criticism (EE-Crit) from the Five-Minute Speech Sample (FMSS) predicts family conflict and children’s externalizing behavior in clinical and community samples. However, studies have not examined EE-Crit in maltreating or separated/divorced families, or whether these family risks exacerbate the links between EE-Crit and family conflict and externalizing behavior. The current study examined the associations between maternal EE-Crit, maltreatment, and separation/divorce, and whether maltreatment and separation/divorce moderated associations between EE-Crit and children’s externalizing problems, and EE-Crit and family conflict. Participants included 123 children (M = 8.01 years, SD = 1.58; 64.2 % males) from maltreating (n = 83) or low-income, comparison (n = 40) families, and 123 mothers (n = 48 separated/divorced). Mothers completed the FMSS for EE-Crit and the Family Environment Scale for family conflict. Maltreatment was coded with the Maltreatment Classification System using information from official Child Protection Services (CPS) reports from the Department of Human Services (DHS). Trained summer camp counselors rated children’s externalizing behavior. Maltreatment was directly associated with higher externalizing problems, and separation/divorce, but not maltreatment, moderated the association between EE-Crit and externalizing behavior. Analyses pertaining to family conflict were not significant. Findings indicate that maltreatment is a direct risk factor for children’s externalizing behavior and separation/divorce is a vulnerability factor for externalizing behavior in family contexts with high maternal EE-Crit. Intervention, prevention, and policy efforts to promote resilience in high-risk families may be effective in targeting maltreating and critical parents, especially those with co-occurring separation/divorce. Key Words: expressed emotion, EE-Crit, Five-Minute Speech Sample; maltreatment, divorce, externalizing behavior


Expressed emotion EE-Crit Five-Minute Speech Sample Maltreatment Divorce Externalizing behavior 



Preparation of this manuscript was supported in part by grants from the Spunk Fund, Inc., and a predoctoral traineeship from the National Institute of Mental Health (5 T-32 MH015755) and a Graduate School Fellowship from the University of Minnesota to the first author.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Angela Narayan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dante Cicchetti
    • 1
  • Fred A. Rogosch
    • 2
  • Sheree L. Toth
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Child DevelopmentUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Mt. Hope Family CenterUniversity of RochesterRochesterUSA

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