Document Type




Format of Original

14 p.

Publication Date



Taylor & Francis (Routledge)

Source Publication

The Journal of Psychology

Source ISSN



Few studies have examined the incidence of behavior problems in toddlers and preschool children from families living in poverty. The available research suggests behavior problems occur at higher rates in children living in poverty and may have long-term negative outcomes if not identified and properly treated. This study included an ethnically representative sample of 357 children, five years of age and younger, from a diverse, low-income, urban area. All families’ incomes met the federal threshold for living in poverty. Behavior problems were assessed by parent report through a questionnaire specifically designed for low-income families. Boys and younger children were reported as demonstrating a higher rate of externalizing behaviors than girls and older children. The overall rate of children scoring at least one standard deviation above the sample's mean for challenging behaviors was 17.4% and was not related to the child's gender, age or ethnicity. This study also sampled children's positive behaviors, which is unique in studies of behavior problems. Gender and age were not related to the frequency of reported positive behaviors. Ethnicity did influence scores on the positive scale. African American children appeared to present their parents more difficulty on items reflecting cooperative behaviors than Caucasian or Latino children. The implications of the study are discussed based on the recognized need for universal screening of behavior problems in young children and the small number professional training programs targeting the identification and treatment of early childhood behavior problems, despite the availability of evidence-based treatment programs tailored to young children in low-income families.


Accepted version. The Journal of Psychology, Vol. 149, No. 2 (2015): 161-174. DOI. © 2015 Taylor & Francis (Routledge). Used with permission.

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