Linking Changes in Whole Family Functioning and Children's Externalizing Behavior Across the Elementary School Years
AbstractThis study used observational assessments of 57 2-parent families working and playing together when their eldest child was in kindergarten and again in Grade 4 to identify distinct patterns of family functioning derived from structural family systems theory for (a) cohesive, (b) separate, and (c) triangulated families. Little consistency in family type from early to middle childhood was indicated. No significant mean differences were found in teacher reports of children's externalizing behavior in their Grade 1 classrooms for children in cohesive or triangulated families. Fourth graders in triangulated families were seen as more aggressive at school than were their peers in cohesive or separate families. Changes in observed family functioning across a 4-year period (kindergarten to Grade 4) were also systematically linked to changes in teachers' ratings of children's externalizing behavior from Grades 1 to 4.