Cumulative Risk Factors for Problem Behaviors Among English and Indian Children Living in the United Kingdom

Using Urie Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model as a theoretical framework, Atzaba-Poria et al. (2004) sought to determine whether risk factors operate in a cumulative manner in relation to behavior problems. The researchers also sought to determine whether cumulative risk variables at different ecological levels provide differential prediction of Externalizing, Internalizing, and Total Problems scores on the CBCL, and whether the findings would differ for English and Indian children living in West London.

Using the CBCL/4-18 (translated into Gujerati for the Indian parents) to measure problems for 7- to 9-year-olds, the researchers found that the more risk factors experienced by the child, the higher the problem scores. Risk factors that significantly predicted Total Problems came from the following three ecological levels: The individual level (e.g., low IQ, high emotionality); the microsystem level (e.g., high parental negativity and harsh discipline); and the exosystem level (e.g., low parental social support, low paternal marital satisfaction). Externalizing problems were mainly predicted by cumulative risk variables from the microsystem, whereas Internalizing problems were predicted by cumulative risk factors from both the individual level and the exosystem level.

The predictive patterns did not differ significantly for English versus Indian children. The authors concluded that “The support for the cumulative hypothesis highlights the importance of having a broad picture of children’s characteristics and environmental components when analysing children’s adjustment. The distinct influence of risk stemming from the different ecological levels suggests that the trajectories of internalising, externalising and total problem behaviour may be different” (p. 707).

Reference: Atzaba-Poria, N., Pike, A., & Deater-Deckard, K. (2004). Do risk factors for problem behaviour act in a cumulative manner? An examination of ethnic minority and majority children through an ecological perspective. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45, 707-718.