Reciprocal effects of maternal and child internalizing symptoms before and after a natural disaster

Estee M. Hausman, Sarah R. Black, Evelyn Bromet, Gabrielle Carlson, Allison Danzig, Roman Kotov, Daniel N. Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


After natural disasters, mothers and children are vulnerable to internalizing symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, and levels of mothers' and children's symptoms are significantly associated. However, the disaster literature has rarely examined reciprocal effects within families. The present study capitalizes on the occurrence of Hurricane Sandy during the course of an ongoing longitudinal study to address this gap. Three-hundred and 47 children (54.2% male, 84.7% Caucasian) and their mothers completed measures of internalizing symptoms when the children were 9-years-old. Hurricane Sandy occurred an average of 1 year later. Eight weeks after the hurricane, mothers and children completed the same measures again. Mothers also reported on their family's stress exposure from Hurricane Sandy. After controlling for predisaster symptoms, longitudinal actor-partner interdependence models indicated that mother's and children's internalizing symptoms were linked. Mothers' prehurricane depression symptoms also predicted increases in children's depression symptoms over time independent of hurricane-related stress. Children's prehurricane anxiety symptoms predicted increases in mothers' depression symptoms only at low levels of hurricane-related stress. Rather than the emergence of reciprocal effects, mother's depression symptoms and children's internalizing symptoms changed in tandem after Hurricane Sandy. High levels of Hurricane Sandy stress did not produce symptom spillover effects, but rather may have interrupted the unfolding of normative developmental parent-child reciprocal symptom processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)836-845
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


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