Low Family Income and Behavior Problems in Norwegian Preschoolers: Is Child Emotionality a Marker for Sensitivity of Influence?

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Poor children have higher rates of mental health problems than more affluent peers, also in progressive welfare states such as Norway. Temperamental characteristics may render some children more sensitive to the adverse influence of poor economy.Objective:This study examined the direct associations between family income-to-needs and mental health and assessed moderation by early temperamental characteristics (i.e., emotionality).Method:Using data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, associations between income-to-needs across children's first 3 years and internalizing and externalizing problems when children were 5 years old were examined. Differential sensitivity to family income-to-needs was assessed by investigating how emotionality, when children were one-and-a-half and 3 years old, moderated these associations.Results:Significant main effects of income-to-needs and emotionality and a significant interaction effect between income-to-needs and emotionality were found for externalizing problems, but not for internalizing problems.Conclusion:Children in poor families with an emotionally reactive temperament had higher scores on externalizing problems when they were 5 compared with their less emotionally reactive peers.

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