Linking internalizing and externalizing problems to warmth and negativity in observed dyadic parent–offspring communication

Publication Name

Family Relations


Objective: This study examined the relative associations of mothers'/fathers' and offspring's internalizing and externalizing problems with parent-to-offspring and offspring-to-parent warmth and negativity. Background: Psychological conditions of family members may be related to intrafamilial social interactions. Particularly, internalizing and externalizing problems may affect the quality of parent–offspring communication. Method: In this study, fathers (N = 94), mothers (N = 125) and their offspring (N = 224, age rangeoffspring = 7.5–65.5 years) from 137 nuclear families participated in a behavioral conflict interaction task during which expressed warmth and negativity were observed. Associations between parents' and offspring's psychological problems (of the past 6 months) and parent-to-offspring and offspring-to-parent communication were tested simultaneously using structural equation models separated for fathers and mothers. Based on prior findings in the study sample, our analyses were controlled for history of childhood abuse. Results: Offspring's internalizing problems were related to less negativity toward their father, whereas offspring's externalizing problems were related to more negativity toward their father and to receiving less warmth from their mother. Father's externalizing problems were linked to more negativity toward offspring. No associations were found between maternal and paternal internalizing problems and dyadic parent–offspring interactions, nor for maternal externalizing problems. Conclusion: Findings support that psychological conditions of one family member have an impact on their social interactions within the family. Implications: Supporting families with interventions to improve parent–offspring interactions and (early) treatment of externalizing problems is recommended.

Open Access Status

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Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

Universiteit Leiden



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