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Am J Orthopsychiatry. 2011 Jul;81(3):360-71. doi: 10.1111/j.1939-0025.2011.01104.x.

An epidemiological examination of parenting and family correlates of emotional problems in young children.

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  • 1School of Teaching, Learning, and Development, Faculty of Education, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.


The present article used data from a community sample of primary caregivers of children between 4 and 7 years old to investigate the prevalence and correlates of emotional symptoms in young children transitioning to elementary school. Mothers (n = 3,483) and fathers (n = 1,019) living in metropolitan areas of eastern Australia participated in a telephone survey of parenting practices and child behavioral and emotional problems. Fifteen percent of mothers and 12% of fathers reported that their child showed clinically elevated levels of emotional symptoms. The most common parental responses to a child's anxious or distressed behavior were to use physical contact, talk in a soothing voice, or encourage their child to be brave, while fewer than 10% of parents ignored their child's distress by not giving any attention. For mothers, reports of child emotional symptoms were associated with mothers' use of physical contact to soothe their children, mothers' level of personal stress and depression, their confidence in managing anxious or distressed behavior, and consistency in their application of discipline. Fathers' encouragement of their children to be brave and fathers' confidence in managing anxious or distressed behavior were associated with reduced child emotional symptoms. These findings have implications for the development of universal prevention programs for internalizing disorders in children.

© 2011 American Orthopsychiatric Association.

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