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Family Risk Exposure Profiles During Early Childhood: Developmental Processes and Adolescent Well-Being

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Although prior work indicates that exposure to multiple family risk factors negatively impacts adjustment in childhood and adolescence, few studies have examined whether children in high-risk families transition in and out of adversity during early childhood and whether patterns of change matter for adjustment in adolescence. Using data from a sample of 216 caregiver-child dyads participating in a study of prenatal cocaine exposure (116 exposed and 100 non-exposed; 50.9% girls), we used latent transition analysis to identify distinct profiles of early exposure to caregiver substance use (SU) and SU-related familial risk (caregiver psychological distress, exposure to violence, harshness, and low sensitivity) and the association between these profiles and adolescent well-being (i.e., hope, happiness, and life satisfaction). Assessments occurred when children were 13, 24, 36, and 48 months and during kindergarten (Mmonths = 66.16, SD = 4.47) and early adolescence (Myears = 13.26, SD = 0.88). Caregivers self-identified as 72.09% Black, 15.81% White, 10.23% Hispanic/Latinx, 1.40% other, and 0.47% American Indian. Four profiles of varying levels of exposure to caregiver SU and SU-related risks were identified from infancy to kindergarten: SU/family risks, no SU/low family risks, SU/negative parenting, and SU/low family risks. Most children stayed in the same profile (64.2%), while the rest transitioned between profiles. Children exposed to caregiver SU and family adversity had lower positive outcomes in adolescence. Stable membership in the SU/family risks profile had significant maladaptive consequences on adolescent well-being. Implications for research and the design of tailored interventions to promote well-being among at-risk youth are discussed.

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The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author, [DS], upon reasonable request.


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Correspondence to Danielle M. Seay.

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Seay, D.M., Ivanova, M.Y., Nickerson, A.B. et al. Family Risk Exposure Profiles During Early Childhood: Developmental Processes and Adolescent Well-Being. ADV RES SCI 4, 151–170 (2023).

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