Predictors of emotional problems in 5-year-old children: An international comparison between two cohorts in Chile and Scotland

Chamarrita Farkas*, Lisa-Christine Girard, Angus MacBeth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Emotional problems in early childhood increase the risk of mental health problems into adolescence and adulthood, but the cross-cultural etiological risk factors are unclear. We examined predictors of emotional problems in preschoolers, using a national cohort of children in Chile and in Scotland. Participants included 1648 children and their families enrolled in the Chilean Encuesta Longitudinal de la Primera Infancia (ELPI) cohort and 3786 children and their families enrolled in the Growing Up in Scotland (GUS) cohort. Data were collected between 2005 and 2012. Information on emotional problems along with social and health determinants were collected via maternal reports. Emotional problems in the clinical range were identified in 10.4% of children from the ELPI cohort and in 3.6% of children from the GUS cohort. The difference between cohorts was statistically significant. Logistic regression revealed that maternal unemployment predicted emotional problems across cohorts. Lower maternal education and living in rural areas predicted higher risk of emotional problems for the ELPI cohort only, whereas having a younger mother, daily parent-child shared activities such as a lower frequency of sharing letters/shapes, and a higher exposure to television predicted higher risk for emotional problems for the GUS cohort. Maternal unemployment as a risk factor across cohorts indicates the importance of shared cross-cultural factors. However, sample specific differences highlight the importance and need for greater attention towards cultural specificities in policy and intervention development for child mental health.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalCurrent psychology
Early online date5 Feb 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Feb 2021


  • Chile
  • cohorts
  • emotional problems
  • epidemiology
  • Scotland


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