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Expressed emotion in children: associations with sibling relationships


Dave Daley, North Wales Clinical Psychology Programme, School of Psychology, Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2DG, UK


Objective  To investigate the reliability and validity of the expressed emotion (EE) measure, the Pre-school Five Minute Speech Sample (PFMSS), in child-to-child sibling relationships.

Method  A total of 106 boys aged 7–11 were recruited from 12 mainstream primary schools in North Wales. The children completed the PFMSS regarding their sibling and two self-report measures of sibling relationship: the Sibling Relationship Questionnaire (SRQ) and a Child Visual Analogue Scale (CVAS). The parents of 60 participants completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire regarding the behavioural problems of the participating child and his younger sibling.

Results  The PFMSS demonstrated good inter-rater and code–recode reliability. The significant associations between EE dimensions such as relationship, positive comments and critical comments with various components of the SRQ and CVAS provided support for the concurrent validity of the PFMSS. Significantly higher levels of Conflict and Rivalry and significantly lower levels of Warmth/Closeness on the SRQ were reported by children with high EE, demonstrating good discriminant validity for the PFMSS. There was no significant association between the child's EE profile and the behavioural difficulties of both siblings as reported by parents.

Conclusions  The study found that the PFMSS is a valid and reliable measure of child EE. Future research is needed to clarify the concurrent validity of the warmth and initial statement components of the measure as well as the association between EE dimensions and behaviour.