Predicting Externalizing and Internalizing Behavior in Kindergarten: Examining the Buffering Role of Early Social Support
This study tested an ecological model predicting children’s behavior problems in kindergarten from risk and protective factors (parent psychological distress, parenting behavior, and social support) during early childhood. Study participants were 1,161 sociodemographically diverse mother–child pairs that participated in a longitudinal birth cohort study. The predictor variables were collected at two separate time points and based on parent reports; children were an average of 2 years old at Time 1 and 3 years old at Time 2. The outcome measures were collected when children reached kindergarten and were 6 years old on average. Our results show that early maternal psychological distress, mediated by suboptimal parenting behavior, predicts children’s externalizing and internalizing behaviors in kindergarten. Moreover, early social support buffers the relations between psychological distress and later suboptimal parenting behavior and between suboptimal parenting behavior and later depressive/withdrawn behavior. Our findings have several implications for early intervention and prevention efforts. Of note, informal social support appears to play an important protective role in the development of externalizing and internalizing behavior problems, weakening the link between psychological distress and less optimal parenting behavior and between suboptimal parenting behavior and children’s withdrawal/depression symptoms. Increasing social support may be a productive goal for family and community-level intervention.
Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Heberle, Amy E.; Krill, Sarah C.; Briggs-Gowan, Margaret J.; and Carter, Alice S., "Predicting Externalizing and Internalizing Behavior in Kindergarten: Examining the Buffering Role of Early Social Support" (2015). Psychology. 525.