Risking it for Love: Romantic Relationships and Early Pubertal Development Confer Risk for Later Disruptive Behavior Disorders in African-American Girls Receiving Psychiatric Care

Shabnam Javdani, Erin M. Rodriguez, Sara R. Nichols, Erin Emerson, Geri R. Donenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Disruptive behavior problems (DBP) represent a growing concern for young women (e.g., Snyder and Sickmund, 2006), but gender-specific investigations have been traditionally underrepresented in this area. The purpose of this study is to examine the associations among gender-relevant risk factors for DBP among 217 African American girls in psychiatric care. African American girls, 12–16 years old (M = 14.6; SD = 1.2), and their primary female caregivers (N = 254) were recruited from outpatient mental health clinics and reported on girls’ DBP, heterosexual dating experiences (romantic and sexual), peer relationships, pubertal development, and self-silencing at baseline, 6–, and 12 months. Structural Equation Modeling examined evidence for full versus mediated (via self-silencing) models and the structural relationships (direct and indirect) among key study variables. Results suggest that the full model was a significantly better fit than the mediated model as indicated by a Chi-squared difference test (p < 0.01). In the full model, direct effects of greater romantic dating experiences and lower quality peer relationships at baseline predicted DBP at 12 months. Sexual dating experiences were more strongly linked with DBP at 12 months for early maturing compared to average or later maturing girls. Indirect effects analyses suggested that girls’ suppression of relational needs, assessed through a measure of self-silencing, explained the association between peer relationships and DBP. Findings highlight the importance of the relational context for girls’ DBP, with treatment implications supporting relationship-based models of care, early intervention, and skill building around negotiating needs with peers and partners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1325-1340
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Volume42
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 14 2014

Keywords

  • Adolescents/Youth
  • Disruptive behavior disorders
  • Disruptive behavior problems
  • Externalizing psychopathology/violence
  • Mental health
  • Peers
  • Pubertal development/early menarche
  • Romantic partners/dating relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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