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01-10-2013 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 10/2013

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 10/2013

Emotional Reactivity and Exposure to Household Stress in Childhood Predict Psychological Problems in Adolescence

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 10/2013
Benjamin G. Shapero, Laurence Steinberg


In recent years, research has examined the role of heightened emotional reactivity and poor regulation on maladjustment during childhood and adolescence. Although much of this research has shown a direct link between high emotional reactivity and maladjustment, there is less research on the ways in which reactivity interacts with contextual factors. Using data from the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD), the current study asks how emotional reactivity in childhood, household chaos, and household income impact changes in emotional and behavioral problems between childhood and adolescence. Participants in the SECCYD were followed from birth until adolescence. Of these, 958 youth (52 % male; 80 % Caucasian, 13 % African American, 2 % Asian, and 5 % Other) who completed measures at age 15 were included in the current study. Results indicate that emotional reactivity and low household income during childhood directly predict higher levels of emotional and behavioral problems in adolescence. In contrast, the impact of household chaos on adolescent mental health depends on the child’s emotional reactivity. Specifically, the adverse impact of household chaos on emotional problems was observed among adolescents who were highly emotionally reactive as children, but not among their less reactive counterparts. Taken together, the relationship between an individual’s childhood context and temperament are important aspects in the prediction of outcomes in adolescents.

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