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Dev Psychol. 2009 Mar;45(2):419-30. doi: 10.1037/a0014072.

Buffers and risks in temperament and family for early adolescent psychopathology: generic, conditional, or domain-specific effects? The trails study.

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  • 1Department of Sociology, University of Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands.


This study examined the possible risk-buffering and risk-enhancing role of family characteristics on the association between temperament and early adolescent externalizing and internalizing problems, adjusted for familial vulnerability for psychopathology and early childhood problem behavior. Furthermore, it explored whether these effects were specific or conditional for either internalizing or externalizing problems or more generic for psychopathology. Data on temperament (frustration and fearfulness) and family characteristics (overprotection, rejection, emotional warmth, and socioeconomic status) came from a large longitudinal Dutch population sample of early adolescents (n = 2,149; M age = 13.55 years; 51.2% girls). Hypotheses on the direction and the specificity of the effects were derived from a goal-framing approach. The findings indicate that family characteristics can either buffer or enhance the temperamental risk in the development of psychopathology. Analyses on the direction of these effects resulted in a descriptive classification of domain-specific, conditional, and generic factors that promote or protect the development of psychopathology. Implications of the results are discussed, and directions for future research are given.

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