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Publication Date



UM campus only

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Annette La Greca

Second Committee Member

Neena Malik

Third Committee Member

Anna Maria Patino Fernandez


This study examined the influence of contextual risk factors and parental depression on the social-emotional functioning of very young children. Ninety-four young children were recruited as part of a larger ongoing research project recruiting caregivers and children from Early Head Start programs in South Florida. Children ranged in age from 12 to 36 months and included 65 girls and 29 boys. There were 94 caregivers in the current study: 91 mothers, 2 fathers, and 1 foster mother. Caregivers were diverse in terms of age, ranging from 19 to 42 years of age (M = 27.31, SD = 5.75), ethnicity (84% African- or Caribbean-American, 14.9% Hispanic/Latino, and 1.1% Mixed/Other), and in number of years of school completed, ranging from 1 to 16 years (M = 12.02, SD = 1.91). The current study employed a cumulative risk factor perspective in examining the social-emotional functioning of infants and toddlers. Specifically, the current study tested both a threshold model and a linear model of cumulative risk. Study measures included a background questionnaire, a measure of parental depression, a measure of parenting stress, a measure of child exposure to violence, and a measure of traumatic life events in a child's life. Further analyses examined ethnicity as a moderator of the relationship between cumulative risk and difficulties with social-emotional functioning. Results showed a significant linear relationship between cumulative risk and social-emotional functioning. However, ethnicity did not moderate this relationship. When individual risk factors were examined post hoc, parental depression, stressful parent-child interactions, having a child with special needs, and community violence were shown to significantly predict difficulties with social-emotional functioning among very young children. These data have important implications for prevention and intervention efforts.


Cumulative Risk; Social-emotional Functioning; Ethnic Minority