Dimensions of deprivation and threat, psychopathology, and potential mediators: A multi-year, longitudinal analysis.

Miller, A. B., Sheridan, M., Hanson, J. L., McLaughlin, K. A., Bates, J. E., Lansford, J. E., Pettit, G. S., & Dodge, K. (2018).  Dimensions of deprivation and threat, psychopathology, and potential mediators: A multi-year, longitudinal analysis. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 127, 160-170.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037%2Fabn0000331

Abstract: Prior research demonstrates a link between exposure to childhood adversity and psychopathology later in development. However, work on mechanisms linking adversity to psychopathology fails to account for specificity in these pathways across different types of adversity. Here, we test a conceptual model that distinguishes deprivation and threat as distinct forms of childhood adversity with different pathways to psychopathology. Deprivation involves an absence of inputs from the environment, such as cognitive and social stimulation, that influence psychopathology by altering cognitive development, such as verbal abilities. Threat includes experiences involving harm or threat of harm that increase risk for psychopathology through disruptions in social-emotional processing. We test the prediction that deprivation, but not threat, increases risk for psychopathology through altered verbal abilities. Data were drawn from the Child Development Project (N=585), which followed children for over a decade. We analyze data from assessment points at age 5, 6, 14, and 17 years. Mothers completed interviews at age 5 and 6 on exposure to threat and deprivation experiences. Youth verbal abilities were assessed at age 14. At age 17, mothers reported on child psychopathology. A path analysis model tested longitudinal paths to internalizing and externalizing problems from experiences of deprivation and threat. Consistent with predictions, deprivation was associated with risk for externalizing problems via effects on verbal abilities at age 14. Threat was associated longitudinally with both internalizing and externalizing problems, but these effects were not mediated by verbal abilities. Results suggest that unique developmental mechanisms link different forms of adversity with psychopathology.