This study examined direct and indirect associations between prenatal cocaine exposure (CE) and childrenâ€™s externalizing problems in kindergarten via higher maternal harshness and lower self-regulation in early childhood. Other environmental risk variables, such as child exposure to community violence and experience of hunger, were used as additional predictors. The sample consisted of 216 motherâ infant dyads recruited at delivery from local area hospitals (116 cocaine-exposed, 100 nonexposed). Maternal harshness was coded from observations of motherâ toddler interactions at 2 years of age, and childrenâ€™s self-regulation was measured at 3 years of age using several laboratory paradigms. Maternal reports of externalizing behavior problems were obtained at both time points and at kindergarten. Teacher reports were obtained and classroom observations of externalizing behaviors were conducted in the kindergarten classroom. Results indicated significant indirect associations between CE and maternal reports of externalizing problems via higher maternal harshness at 2 years and higher externalizing problems at 3 years of child age. A second indirect path from CE to externalizing problems in the school setting via higher maternal harshness at 2 years and lower self-regulation at 3 years was also significant. There were significant associations between community violence exposure and maternal reports of externalizing problems, and between hunger and externalizing problems in the school setting. Results highlight the role of parenting and self-regulation in early childhood as critical process variables in the indirect association between CE and externalizing behavior problems in kindergarten.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Clinical Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health