Reciprocal Associations Between Psychiatric Symptoms and Relationshop Quality
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- Institutt for psykologi 
Psychopathology affects a substantial number of children, yet risk and protective factors for psychopathology in middle childhood are not well understood. Research has typically examined risk and protective factors in the close family, and there is a need to look beyond the most proximal factors that might influence child mental health. The aim of the present study was to examine reciprocal associations between quality of children’s relationships with teachers and best friends and symptoms of psychiatric disorders in middle childhood. Drawing on longitudinal cohort data from the Trondheim Early Secure Study (n=663), a cross-lagged analysis of relationship quality and symptoms of psychopathology from 10 to 12 years was carried out. Relationship quality was measured using children’s selfreport and symptoms of psychiatric disorders were measured using standardised diagnostic interviews of children and their caregivers. The results showed that negativity in the teacher-child relationship at age 10 was prospectively associated with higher levels of both internalising and externalising symptoms at age 12. In addition, higher levels of internalising symptoms at age 10 predicted lower levels of positivity in the teacher-child relationship at age 12, and higher levels of externalising symptoms at age 10 predicted higher levels of negativity at age 12. Concerning best friendships, higher levels of internalising symptoms at age 10 predicted lower levels of perceived positivity in the relationship at age 12. This suggests that relationships beyond the family are important for development in middle childhood, particularly the teacher-child relationship. Implications of the findings are discussed.