Developmental Delay and Emotion Dysregulation: Predicting Parent–Child Conflict Across Early to Middle Childhood

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Cumulative risk research has increased understanding of how multiple risk factors impact various socioemotional and interpersonal outcomes across the life span. However, little is known about risk factors for parent–child conflict early in development, where identifying predictors of change could be highly salient for intervention. Given their established association with parent–child conflict, child developmental delay (DD) and emotion dysregulation were examined as predictors of change in conflict across early to middle childhood (ages 3 to 7 years). Participants (n = 211) were part of a longitudinal study examining the development of psychopathology in children with or without DD. Level of parent–child conflict was derived from naturalistic home observations, whereas child dysregulation was measured using an adapted CBCL-Emotion Dysregulation Index. PROCESS was used to examine the conditional interactive effects of delay status (typically developing, DD) and dysregulation on change in conflict from child ages 3 to 5 and 5 to 7 years. Across both of these timeframes, parent–child conflict increased only for families of children with both DD and high dysregulation, providing support for an interactive risk model of parent–child conflict. Findings are considered in the context of developmental transitions, and implications for intervention are discussed.

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