Testing the temporal precedence of family functioning and child psychopathology in the LONGSCAN sample

Ashley Serna, Hena Thakur, Joseph R. Cohen, D. A. Briley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Family functioning may serve as protective or risk factors in the development of youth psychopathology. However, few studies have examined the potentially reciprocal relation between child psychopathology and family functioning. To fill this gap in the literature, this study tested for time-ordered associations between measures of family functioning (e.g., cohesion, conflict, and emotional expressiveness) and child psychopathology (e.g., total behavior problems, externalizing, and internalizing problems) using data from the Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect (LONGSCAN; N = 1143, 52.3% female, Nwaves = 5). We used a random-intercept cross-lagged panel model to identify whether child psychopathology preceded and predicted family functioning, the reverse, or both processes occurred simultaneously. At the between-person level, families who tended to have more cohesion, who lacked conflict, and who expressed their emotions had lower levels of child psychopathology. At the within-person level in childhood, we found minimal evidence for time-ordered associations. In adolescence, however, a clear pattern whereby early psychopathology consistently predicted subsequent family functioning emerged, and the reverse direction was rarely found. Results indicate a complex dynamic relation between the family unit and child that have important implications for developmental models that contextualize risk and resilience within the family unit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Child psychopathology
  • Cohesion
  • Conflict
  • Emotional expressiveness
  • Family functioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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