The development of cooperation in relationships: Protective processes for children vulnerable to mental health problems

Project Details


Family relationships are the strongest 'environmental' correlate of children's mental health problems. Yet because of methodological problems in the study of relationships we do not yet know whether the strength of this relationship comes from the individuals involved (a trait aspect to behavior, e.g. negativity, that a person carries with them into different relationships), the unique combination of two people in a dyad (a child is easy for one parent but difficult for the other) or the family as a whole (an emotional climate pervades the family). This project proposes a follow-up of a birth cohort of children, their older siblings and their parents (501 families enlisted in 2005-2006) who have taken part in four waves of data collection as part of the Kids, Families and Places (KFP) study. The inclusion of up to four children per family, with data from both parents, has allowed us to track the relationship between individual characteristics of family members, relationship dynamics and children's mental health across early life. In the present study we propose visiting our families two more times. We use two novel methods to investigate the development of cooperation in family relationships. One method involves every member of the family interacting with every other member and fitting a complex statistical model that allows us to isolate effects of individuals, from effects of dyads, from effects of the whole family. We use data from the first 4 waves to explain variation between individuals (both genetic and early developmental data), dyads (the interaction of the personalities of each member of the dyad) and families (cumulative social disadvantage). In our second study by coding 10 minutes of interaction for each dyad during conflict and cooperation tasks, we examine the moment-to-moment interactional processes that encourage or discourage cooperation and how these interactional patterns predict children's mental health.
Effective start/end date1/04/1331/03/18

Structured keywords

  • SoE Centre for Multilevel Modelling