This study examined the developmental pathways from fathers’ psychopathology in early childhood to child peer victimization (bullying and cyber victimization) in late adolescence via family relationships and early adolescent psychosocial functioning (anxiety, emotion regulation, social problems).
A conceptual model with pathways through inter-parental aggression and fathers’ parenting (harshness and sensitivity) was tested. Participants were 227 families (51 percent female children recruited as infants) who participated in a longitudinal study that examined the role of parental alcohol problems and associated risks on developmental and family processes from infancy to late adolescence. Multi-method (observational, parent report, adolescent report) assessments of family processes and child outcomes were conducted across all time points. Fathers’ alcohol problems and depressive symptoms in early childhood was prospectively associated with inter-parental aggression in middle childhood and social problems in early adolescence. For boys only, early adolescent social problems were predictive of bullying victimization. Fathers’ antisocial behavior in early childhood was associated with less sensitive parenting in middle childhood. Fathers’ sensitivity in middle childhood was protective, being associated with lower cyber victimization in late adolescence. Fathers’ sensitivity was also associated with higher emotion regulation in early adolescence; however, counter to expectations, higher emotion regulation was associated with more bullying and cyber victimization. Findings shed light on differences in the etiological pathways to bullying and cyber victimization, as well as how distinct forms of paternal psychopathology in early childhood associate with family relationships, child adjustment, and vulnerability to peer victimization in late adolescence. (publisher abstract modified)