The effects of child temperament, maternal characteristics, and family circumstances on the maladjustment of school-age children

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Abstract

Eighty-nine mothers with children between the ages of 8 and 11 years reported perceptions of their child's adjustment and temperament, and described concurrent family circumstances such as socioeconomic status, level of parental distress, major life events experienced, maternal hassles, and their own psychiatric symptoms. A conceptual model hypothesizing the direct and indirect effects of family circumstances, maternal characteristics, and child temperament on the maladjustment of school-age children was tested using causal modeling with residual analysis. Fifty-six percent of child externalizing behavior was directly explained by the negative reactivity and nonpersistence of the child's temperament, and maternal hassles. A total of 33% of the variance of internalizing behavior was explained by the direct effects of negative reactivity of the child's temperament and maternal hassles. For both externalizing and internalizing behavior, a total of 54% of the variance in maternal hassles was explained by three variables: maternal psychiatric symptoms contributed 34%, major life events added 15%, and the intensity of the mother's temperament added an additional 5%. These three variables have a direct effect on maternal hassles and together had an indirect effect of .24 on child externalizing behavior through maternal hassles. Likewise, they have a direct effect on maternal hassles and together had an indirect effect of .31 on child internalizing behavior through maternal hassles.

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