Parent-infant observation for prediction of later childhood psychopathology in community-based samples: A Systematic Review

Elena McAndie* (Corresponding Author), Charlotte Murray, Philip Wilson, Lucy Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

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Difficulties in parent-child interaction are easily observed and are a potential target for early intervention. This review aimed to assess the utility of current observational methods used to assess parent-child interactions–within the first year of life–and their ability to screen and identify children from low-risk samples most at risk of developing childhood psychopathology.

Six bibliographic databases were searched, and reference lists screened. All peer reviewed papers studying the association between an independent observation of parent-child interaction and later childhood psychopathology in community-based samples were included. Included studies were those recruiting from population or community-based birth cohort data, which we define as ‘low-risk’. Studies based on populations known to have a diagnosis of psychiatric illness or developmental disorder, or at high genetic or environmental risk of being diagnosed with such disorder, were excluded. Results were synthesised qualitatively due to high heterogeneity.

20,051 papers were identified, nine were included in this study. Childhood psychopathology was associated with fewer positive parent-infant interactions, lower parent vocalisation frequency and lower levels of adult speech and activity. Maternal sensitivity was inversely related to separation anxiety and oppositional defiant/conduct disorders were associated with lower shared look rates. Disruptive behaviour disorders were associated with higher frequency of child vocalisation.

Assessment of parent-child interactions, particularly the level of maternal activity, may be an early indicator of later childhood psychopathology in low-risk samples. Further longitudinal, population-based studies are required.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0279559
Number of pages18
JournalPloS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 29 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Open Access via the PLOS Agreement
Funding: The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.

Data Availability Statement

Data Availability: All relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files. All published papers discussed in the paper are in the public domain.


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