Parental health, parenting behavior and externalizing behavior problems among low-income African American preschool children

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Esposito, Cassandra Lynn
Behavior Problems; Early Childhood; Head Start; Clinical Psychology
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Externalizing behavior problems are highly prevalent in the preschool years. These behaviors are particularly common and problematic among children who are from low-income, minority backgrounds. There is evidence in the literature that describes parental health and parenting problems as risk factors for child externalizing behavior problems. The primary objective of this study was to better understand the relationship between parental health factors, parenting, and child behavior problems. Utilizing data from a low-income African American population, this study examined whether observed measures of parenting behaviors mediated the relationship between measures of parental health (e.g., depression, stress, and BMI) and child externalizing behavior problems. Observed measures of parenting behaviors were collected during three different parent-child interactions (i.e., snack, free play, and clean-up). Results revealed significant positive correlations between parental stress and depression and child externalizing behavior. However, path analyses showed that parental stress was the primary predictor of parental reports of child behavior problems. The current study did not find support for the hypothesis that observed parenting behaviors would mediate the relation between parental health and child behavior. These results, limitations of the present study, and future research directions are discussed.