Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 50, Issue 6, pp 1021–1036 | Cite as

The Perspective Matters: A Multi-informant Study on the Relationship Between Social–Emotional Competence and Preschoolers’ Externalizing and Internalizing Symptoms

  • Laura HuberEmail author
  • Maria Plötner
  • Tina In-Albon
  • Stephanie Stadelmann
  • Julian Schmitz
Original Article


Recent research demands a multi-informant and multi-factorial assessment of preschool-age psychopathology. Based on a tripartite model, we tested the relationship between emotional and social competence and their contribution to externalizing and internalizing symptoms in a preschool-age community sample (N = 117, M = 4.67 years, SD = 2.75 months). We assessed teachers’ (N = 109) and parents’ (N = 77) perspective using the Strengths-and-Difficulties-Questionnaire and children’s perspective using the Berkeley-Puppet-Interview and a standardized emotional-competence-test (MeKKi). We found externalizing symptoms being negatively related to prosocial behavior in teachers’ and parents’ reports and positively related to social initiative in teachers’ reports. In teachers’ reports only, a mediation effect of emotional competence via social competence on externalizing symptoms was shown. Children, but not caregivers, reported internalizing symptoms being positively related to prosocial behavior. These results highlight the importance of multiple informants and especially of children’s self-perception in preschool-age psychopathology.


Externalizing symptoms Internalizing symptoms Emotional competence Social competence Multi-informant study Preschoolers 



This research project was funded by a stipend of the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation, granted to the first author.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10578_2019_902_MOESM1_ESM.docx (28 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 25 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, Institute of PsychologyUniversity of LeipzigLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.Leipzig Research Centre for Early Childhood DevelopmentUniversity of LeipzigLeipzigGermany
  3. 3.Department of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology and Psychotherapy, Faculty of PsychologyUniversity of Koblenz-LandauLandauGermany
  4. 4.Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and PsychosomaticsUniversity of LeipzigLeipzigGermany

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