Statement of purpose Adverse family experiences (AFEs) are common throughout early childhood to adolescence, which are detrimental to the long-term trajectories of individuals’ mental health. AFEs are likely to co-occur, while few studies have examined distinct patterns of co-occurring AFEs in the different age groups of children.
Methods/Approach Participants were from the National Survey of Children Health in 2016, 2017, and 2018, the current study conducted the latent class analysis to identify subgroups of children who had experienced multiple forms of AFEs among three developmental stages: 1–5 (preschool), 6–11 (school-age), and 12–17 years-old (adolescents) in each year and also comparing if these subgroups are stable across the three years.
Results In 2016, three latent classes were identified for preschool children, with 85.02% in low AFEs, 13.24% in moderate household dysfunction(MHD, characterized with high economic hardship and parental separation), 1.73% in high AFEs; Four latent classes were identified for both school-aged children, with 77.36% in low AFEs, 15.35% in MHD, 3.37% in severe household dysfunction (SHD, characterized with high economic hardship and parental separation, household mental illness and substance use), and 3.92% high AFEs; Four latent classes were also identified for adolescents, with 72.21% in low AFEs, 15.05% in MHD, 8.28% in SHD, and 4.46% high AFEs. Similar patterns were found in preschool, school-age children, and adolescents in both 2017 and 2018.
Conclusion The class ‘low AFEs’ is the smallest proportion in the adolescent population which indicates the experiences of AFEs are growing with age. The findings indicate distinct classes of adversity experienced among children are somewhat stable across developmental periods and across years.
Significance The findings call for comprehensive screening as well as tailored intervention for these patterns in order to improve health outcomes.
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