Informant Discrepancies in Internalizing and Externalizing Symptoms in an At-Risk Sample: The Role of Parenting and School Engagement

  • Alexa L. CurhanEmail author
  • Jill A. Rabinowitz
  • Elise T. Pas
  • Catherine P. Bradshaw
Empirical Research


A number of studies have used variable-centered approaches to examine informant discrepancies on children’s behavior problems; however, few such studies have used person-centered approaches to explore patterns of informant discrepancies or correlates of discrepancies in informant symptom ratings. The present study addressed these gaps by examining profiles of informant agreement on internalizing and externalizing symptoms and examining whether two important contextual factors, parenting and school engagement, are associated with profile membership. Data from an at-risk, urban sample of youth participants (N= 346, M age = 12.47 ± 0.60 years, 56% male, and 75% Black), their caregivers, and one of their teachers were analyzed in the current study. Youth from 20 schools in a Mid-Atlantic state were screened for elevated levels of aggression and were selected to participate in the Early Adolescent Coping Power study. At baseline, youth, caregivers, and teachers reported on youth’s internalizing symptoms and caregivers and teachers reported on youth’s externalizing symptoms. Caregivers reported on their parenting; youth reported on their school engagement. Two internalizing symptoms profiles were identified: Low Symptoms Agreement and Youth-Reported High Somatization and Anxiety. Three externalizing symptoms profiles were identified: Low Symptoms Agreement, Teacher-Reported High Externalizing, and Caregiver-Reported High Externalizing. These profiles differed significantly on parenting behaviors and school engagement, shedding light on factors that may underlie informant discrepancies.


Internalizing symptoms Externalizing symptoms Multiple informants Person-centered approach Parenting School engagement 



The research reported here was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305A140070 (PI: C. Bradshaw) to the University of Virginia. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education. The authors would like to acknowledge Dr. John Lochman who is a Co-PI on the grant and supported the data collection for this study.

Authors’ Contributions

A.C. developed the research questions, led the writing of the manuscript, assisted with conducting the analyses, and interpreting the results; J.R. conducted the primary analyses and provided writing and editing assistance; E.P. led the collection of data, oversaw the data analysis and interpretation, and provided guidance on the research framing and writing; C.B. conceived of and supervised the study as the principal investigator on the grant supporting the researchers’ time on this project and assisted in framing and editing the manuscript. All authors approved the final manuscript as submitted and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

Data Sharing and Declaration

This manuscript’s data will not be deposited.

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 review board at the University of Virginia (IRB#2014-0247-00) and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (IRB #5807) 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

10964_2019_1107_MOESM1_ESM.docx (44 kb)
Supplementary Information.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mental HealthJohns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.University of Virginia, Curry School of Education and Human DevelopmentCharlottesvilleUSA

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