Exposure to child-directed parental aggression in early life has been found to increase the risk of later psychopathological symptoms among children and adolescents. However, little is known about intermediate phenotypes and the developmental progression of symptoms, especially across the transition to grade school. Using prospectively collected longitudinal data from a large sample of children enrolled in the Family Life Project (n = 1,166, 49.7% female), the current study examined the mediating role of early dissociative symptoms in the relations between parental aggression and children’s psychopathological symptoms. Children’s exposure to parental aggression and their dissociative symptoms before school entry were assessed based on primary caregivers’ reports. Teacher ratings of children’s internalizing and externalizing symptoms were collected in pre-kindergarten as well as in the 1st, 3rd, and 5th grades. Results showed that dissociative symptoms before school entry partially mediated the association between parental aggression and persistent externalizing symptoms in school years. However, no significant associations were found between parental aggression or dissociative symptoms and internalizing symptoms. Findings suggest that dissociative symptoms manifested early in life serve as a mediating mechanism and indicator of risk for persistent impulsivity and behavioral problems. Thus, these symptoms could be an important target of preventive services provided to children with adverse experiences in their families.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Psychology
- Applied Psychology