Emotional and behavioural resilience to multiple risk exposure in early life: The role of parenting.


Ecological and transactional theories link child outcomes to neighbourhood disadvantage, family poverty and adverse life events. Traditionally, these three types of risk factors have been examined independently of one another or combined into one cumulative risk index. The first approach results in poor prediction of child outcomes, and the second is not well rooted in ecological theory as it does not consider that distal risk factors (such as poverty) may indirectly impact children through proximal risk factors (such as adverse life events). In this study, we modelled simultaneously the longitudinal effects of these three risk factors on children’s internalising and externalising problems, exploring the role of parenting in moderating these effects. Our sample followed 16,916 children (at ages 3, 5 and 7 years; N = 16,916; 49 % girls) from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. Parenting was characterised by quality of parent-child relationship, parental involvement in learning and parental discipline. Neighbourhood disadvantage, family poverty and adverse events were all simultaneously related to the trajectories of both outcomes. As expected, parenting moderated risk effects. Positive parent-child relationship, rather than greater involvement or authoritative discipline, most consistently ‘buffered’ risk effects. These findings suggest that a good parent-child relationship may promote young children’s emotional and behavioural resilience to different types of environmental risk.