Longitudinal Relations between Infant Temperament and Child Internalizing and Externalizing Symptoms: The Role of Parental Conflict Tactics and Intimate Partner Violence



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Background: The present longitudinal investigation examined direct and indirect effects of parental conflict tactics and intimate partner violence (IPV) in the relation between infant temperament and internalizing and externalizing (I/E) symptom trajectories in a diverse sample of children at risk for maltreatment. Method: Participants included 499 mother (36.1% White; 44.3% single; 34.1% employed) and child (51.1% female; 31.7% White) dyads from the LONGitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect (LONGSCAN; Runyan et al., 1998) dataset. Mothers completed a measure of child temperament between infancy and the child’s fourth birthday and a checklist of I/E symptoms when the child was 6, 8, 10, and 12 years old, respectively. Children completed a self-report measure of IPV exposure at age 6, and mothers reported on parental use of aggressive conflict tactics when the child was 8 years old. Results: Multi-level modeling revealed a significant main effect of temperament on the cubic trajectory of internalizing symptoms. Post-hoc slope probing revealed that children with higher levels of difficult temperament evinced a sharper growth in internalizing symptoms during the study period. Finally, multilevel modeling of externalizing (but not internalizing) symptoms revealed a significant temperamentIPVlinear time interaction, such that low difficult temperament/high IPV children evinced the most pronounced growth in externalizing symptoms over the course of the investigation. Surprisingly, both the high difficult temperament/high IPV and high difficult temperament/low IPV groups experienced sharp decreases in externalizing symptoms over the study period. Conclusion: Findings underscore the role of difficult temperament and IPV on the trajectory of I/E symptoms, yet also highlight the need for a more comprehensive assessment of temperament and a multimethod approach to IPV to more clearly delineate the specific role of these variables above and beyond relevant covariates.



Childhood Psychopathology, Intimate partner violence, Temperament