Title

Mediating Effects of Problem-Solving on Emotional Reactivity in Children

Poster Number

11a

Lead Author Affiliation

Educational Psychology

Lead Author Status

Doctoral Student

Second Author Affiliation

Educational Psychology

Second Author Status

Doctoral Student

Introduction

School psychologists often encounter students who are more reactive than their typical peers. Previous research has linked chaos to external and internal problems in children and adolescents (Dumas et. al., 2005; Shapero & Steinberg, 2013). There have been conflicting results of the sex differences in the effects of chaos on children (Shamama-tus-Sabah et al., 2012). Additionally, higher levels of emotional reactivity leads to more internalizing problems in preschool-aged children (Morgan, Izard, & Hyde, 2014), and both internalizing and externalizing problems in adolescents (Rabinowitz, et al., 2016). Research suggests that social problem-solving skills lead to a decrease in behavior problems in children (Webster-Stratton, Reid, & Hammond, 2001; Dereli-Iman, 2013). This study will expand on previous research by exploring the effect on chaos in the home on children’s emotional reactivity, and whether those effects are mediated by problem-solving skills. This study will also determine if these effects depend on whether one is male or female.

Purpose

The research questions being asked are: Does chaos in the home at an earlier age affect emotional reactivity in children? Is the effect of chaos in the home on emotional reactivity mediated by problem-solving skills? Do these effects depend on whether one is male or female? These findings can inform school psychologists on possible student interventions for children who have high emotional reactivity. It is important for school psychologists, or anyone working with children, to help give them tools to make them more successful, as they cannot usually change their home environments. If findings show that problem-solving skills mediate the effect of chaos in the home, then interventions should focus on students' development of problem-solving skills.

Method

Participants This study used data from Phase III of the National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD). In 1991, the NICHD-SECCYD recruited 1,364 families from 10 states across the United States, and have continued to collect data on the participants over the years. (N=873, 440 Males, 443 Females). Instruments Chaos in the Home was measured in 3rd grade with a questionnaire that was filled out by the participant’s mother; it asked about factors like noise and disorganization. There were a total of 15 true or false items (True=1, False=2). Items were summed to obtain a total score, with higher scores indicating more chaos. This scale was developed by Matheny, Wachs, and Phillips (1995), and good reliability was evidenced by a correlation of .74 for the test-retest stability. Problem-Solving Skills was measured in 5th grade by participants’ performance on the Tower of Hanoi. This task required participants to problem-solve and plan to complete a puzzle in which they move an initial configuration of rings on three towers into the goal state. Tasks 2 through 7 were summed for a total score, with higher scores indicating better problem-solving skills. Emotional Reactivity was measured in 6th grade with a 10-item questionnaire that was completed by the participant’s mother. Items were scored on a 5-point Likert-type scale (1=Never, 2=Occasionally, 3=About Half the Time, 4=Usually, and 5=Always). Items were summed to obtain a total score, with higher scores indicating higher perceived emotional reactivity of the child. Good reliability of the instrument was indicated by a Cronbach’s alpha value of .74. Analysis Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to determine the effects of chaos in the home environment on children’s emotional reactivity, and if problem-solving skills mediated these effects. Further, path constraints were tested to determine if effects were significantly different for males and females. Socioeconomic status (SES) and Ethnicity (1=White, 0=Other) were control variables. Chaos in the Home was the predictor variable, Problem-Solving Skills (1=Low, 2=High) was the mediating variable, and Emotional Reactivity was the dependent variable.

Results

The original model was just-identified. To test whether sex moderates the relationships between chaos in the home, problem-solving skills, an emotional reactivity, paths were individually constrained to be equal across groups. All paths resulted in an insignificant change in chi-squared (X2), indicating that the effects were not significantly different for males and females; accordingly, all paths were constrained to be equal. This model fit the data well [CFI = 1.000; TLI = 1.067; RMSEA = .000, 90% RMSEA Confidence Interval (CI) = .000 to .025]. Results indicated that, while controlling for SES and Ethnicity, chaos in the home positively predicts emotional reactivity (b = .336, β = .189, p < .001), such that for every standard increase in chaos in the home, emotional reactivity increases .189 standard deviations. Problem-solving skills negatively predicts emotional reactivity (b = -1.100, β = -.095, p = .004), such that for every standard deviation increase in problem-solving skills, emotional reactivity decreases .095 standard deviations. These findings suggest that problem-solving skills lessen the effect of chaos in the home on emotional reactivity in children, and that this effect do not differ for males and females.

Significance

The findings of this study suggest that as chaos in children’s home environments increases, children’s emotional reactivity increases as well. Further, we found that problem-solving skills lessen the effect of chaos in the home on emotional reactivity in children. Such that, the higher a child’s problem-solving skills are, the less emotionally reactive they are, even if the child’s home environment is chaotic. Further, these effects hold true for both males and females. As school psychologists, we have less control over what occurs in a student’s home environment, and more control over what happens in the schools. These findings can inform school psychologists on possible student interventions for children who have high emotional reactivity. Findings suggest that these interventions should focus on students' development of problem-solving skills.

Location

DeRosa University Center

Format

Poster Presentation

Poster Session

Afternoon 1pm-3pm

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Apr 28th, 1:00 PM Apr 28th, 3:00 PM

Mediating Effects of Problem-Solving on Emotional Reactivity in Children

DeRosa University Center

School psychologists often encounter students who are more reactive than their typical peers. Previous research has linked chaos to external and internal problems in children and adolescents (Dumas et. al., 2005; Shapero & Steinberg, 2013). There have been conflicting results of the sex differences in the effects of chaos on children (Shamama-tus-Sabah et al., 2012). Additionally, higher levels of emotional reactivity leads to more internalizing problems in preschool-aged children (Morgan, Izard, & Hyde, 2014), and both internalizing and externalizing problems in adolescents (Rabinowitz, et al., 2016). Research suggests that social problem-solving skills lead to a decrease in behavior problems in children (Webster-Stratton, Reid, & Hammond, 2001; Dereli-Iman, 2013). This study will expand on previous research by exploring the effect on chaos in the home on children’s emotional reactivity, and whether those effects are mediated by problem-solving skills. This study will also determine if these effects depend on whether one is male or female.