Longitudinal Associations Between Family Members’ Internalizing Symptoms Across Middle Childhood

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An individual’s internalizing symptoms have been shown to relate to greater symptoms in family members. However, an examination of how family members’ symptoms are associated with one another is needed with a model including mothers, fathers, and children. Using 633 families from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, the current study examines relations between different family members’ internalizing symptoms over time. In the archival data set, mothers’, fathers’, and children’s internalizing symptoms at first, third, and fifth grades were assessed during home and laboratory visits. We tested a cross-lagged path model to assess transactional associations with family income-to-needs ratio and child gender as covariates. In the model, more maternal internalizing symptoms at first and third grades were associated with greater child symptoms at third and fifth grades. More child symptoms at first and third grades were associated with greater maternal symptoms at third and fifth grades. Additionally, more child symptoms at third grade were associated with greater paternal symptoms at fifth grade. These results highlight the importance of examining how family members’ internalizing symptoms are associated longitudinally in understanding family systems processes.

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