Background: The effects of contextual risk on young children's behavior are not appropriately modeled. Aims: To model the effects of area and family contextual risk on young children's psychopathology. Method: The final study sample consisted of 4,618 Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) children, who were 3 years old, clustered in lower layer super output areas in nine strata in the UK. Contextual risk was measured by socioeconomic disadvantage (SED) at both area and family level, and by distal and proximal adverse life events at family level. Multivariate response multilevel models that allowed for correlated residuals at both individual and area level, and univariate multilevel models estimated the effect of contextual risk on specific and broad psychopathology measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Results: The area SED/broad psychopathology association remained significant after family SED was controlled, but not after maternal qualifications and family adverse life events were added to the model. Adverse life events predicted psychopathology in all models. Family SED did not predict emotional symptoms or hyperactivity after child characteristics were added to the model with the familylevel controls. Conclusions: Area-level SED predicts child psychopathology via family characteristics; family-levelSED predicts psychopathology largely by its impact on development; and adverse life events predict psychopathology independently of earlier adversity, SED and child characteristics, as well as maternal psychopathology, parenting and education. © Springer-Verlag 2009.
- Child psychopathology
- Hierarchical data
- Multilevel models
- Multivariate response multilevel models
- Socio-economic disadvantage