Parental psychopathology levels as a moderator of temperament and Oppositional Defiant Disorder symptoms in preschoolers.


Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is among the most prevalent disorders in preschoolers. It has been linked to temperament, since characteristics such as elevated surgency and negative affect, as well as low levels of effortful control, contribute to the development of this disorder. Evidence also indicates that parental psychopathology can accentuate temperamental traits. Our aim was to assess whether the levels of psychopathology of mothers and fathers acts as a moderator of the relationship between temperament and ODD symptoms in preschoolers, both cross-sectionally at ages 3, 4 and 5, and longitudinally between ages 3 and 5. The sample included 550 children evaluated at ages 3, 4 and 5 through questionnaires and a semi-structured diagnostic interview with parents. Parents also answered a questionnaire about their own psychopathology. The results indicated that negative affect and effortful control are associated with higher levels of ODD symptoms in preschoolers. At child age 5, higher levels of paternal depression and anxiety increased the effect of low effortful control on ODD. High levels of negative affect and low levels of effortful control at age 3 were statistical predictors of ODD levels at age 5, and this relationship was also moderated by paternal anxiety and depression. The results have important clinical implications for the proper orientation of interventions, suggesting that interventions should integrate the paternal caregiver in the treatment.