The meaning of emotional overinvolvement in early development: Prospective relations with child behavior problems

Tamar Y. Khafi, Tuppett M. Yates, Efrat Sher-Censor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Emotional overinvolvement (EOI) in parents' Five Minute Speech Samples (FMSSs; Magaña-Amato, 1993) is thought to measure overconcern and enmeshment with one's child. Although related to maladaptive outcomes in studies of adult children, FMSS EOI evidences varied relations with behavior problems in studies with young children. These mixed findings may indicate that certain FMSS EOI criteria reflect inappropriate and excessive involvement with adult children, but do not indicate maladaptive processes when parenting younger children. Thus, this study evaluated relations of each FMSS EOI criterion with changes in child behavior problems from preschool to first grade in a community sample of 223 child-mother dyads (47.98% female; Wave 1 Mage = 49.08 months; 56.50% Hispanic/ Latina). Maternal FMSS EOI ratings were obtained at Wave 1, and independent examiners rated child externalizing and internalizing behavior problems at Wave 1 and again 2 years later. Path analyses indicated that both the self-sacrifice/overprotection (SSOP) and statements of attitude (SOAs) FMSS EOI criteria predicted increased externalizing problems. In contrast, excessive detail and exaggerated praise were not related to child externalizing behavior problems, and Emotional Display was not evident in this sample. None of the FMSS EOI criteria evidenced significant relations with internalizing behavior problems. Multigroup comparisons indicated that the effect of SOAs on externalizing behavior problems was significant for boys but not for girls, and there were no significant group differences by race/ ethnicity. These findings point to the salience of SSOP and SOAs for understanding the developmental significance of EOI in early development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)584-594
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Psychological Association.


  • Behavior problems
  • Emotional overinvolvement
  • Expressed emotion
  • Five minute speech sample
  • Preschool children

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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