Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 25, Issue 12, pp 3574–3583 | Cite as

Family Conflict Moderates the Relation Between Negative Mood and Youth Internalizing and Externalizing Symptoms

  • Jill A. Rabinowitz
  • Deborah A. G. Drabick
  • Maureen D. Reynolds
Original Paper


Higher negative (or lower positive) mood is associated with internalizing and externalizing problems among some, but not all youth, suggesting that contextual factors may influence these temperament-symptom relations. Family conflict also is associated with internalizing and externalizing problems, although it is unclear whether family conflict influences the relation between negative mood and symptoms. To address this gap, we examined whether family conflict moderates the relations between temperamental negative mood and internalizing and externalizing symptoms. Participants were 775 youth (69 % male, 76 % Caucasian). Mothers and youth completed questionnaires when youth were ages 10–12 (time 1) and 12–14 (time 2). When exposed to higher family conflict at time 1, children higher in negative mood experienced higher time 2 internalizing and externalizing problems than children lower in negative mood. When exposed to lower family conflict, children’s internalizing and externalizing symptom levels were similar regardless of their levels of negative mood. Findings suggest that interventions aimed at reducing youth’s risk for internalizing and externalizing symptoms should address conflictual interactions within the larger family system, particularly among youth with higher negative mood.


Temperament Family conflict Internalizing problems Externalizing problems Adolescence 



The authors thank all study participants. We also thank Dr. Ralph Tarter for his comments and suggestions regarding the manuscript.


This research was supported in part by NIDA grant P50 DA 005605 awarded to Ralph E. Tarter.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jill A. Rabinowitz
    • 1
  • Deborah A. G. Drabick
    • 1
  • Maureen D. Reynolds
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTemple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.School of PharmacyUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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