A network analysis of psychopathology in young Black children: Implications for predicting outcomes in adolescence

Publication Year


Journal Article

Objective: Network analysis may identify specific symptoms involved in the maintenance and development of psychopathology. This approach, however, has not been applied to the study of young Black children, a population facing unique challenges and developmental risks. It is also unclear whether network analysis identifies early symptoms in Black children that are linked to their longer-term difficulties and strengths in adolescence.

Methods: We conducted a network analysis of emotional and behavioral difficulties in 1238 Black (non-Hispanic) children from the age-3 assessment in the Future of Families and Child Wellbeing Study (47 % female). We also explored whether early childhood symptoms predict subsequent caregiver-reported internalizing and externalizing problems, and youth-reported social competencies and extracurricular and community involvement, at the age-15 assessment.

Results: We identified specific symptoms of externalizing and emotional reactivity as central in the network. Symptoms of emotional reactivity were also involved in comorbidity, bridging different communities of symptoms. Using elastic net models, we identified specific central and bridge symptoms, but also peripheral network symptoms, that contributed uniquely to the prediction of internalizing and externalizing problems in adolescence. Early childhood symptoms were less predictive of positive outcomes in adolescence.

Conclusions: This study identified central and bridge symptoms in young Black children, an underrepresented population in network analysis research. Some of these central and bridge symptoms, but also peripheral network symptoms, may be useful targets in early interventions to prevent long-term difficulties. Conversely, network approaches to understanding early psychopathology may have less utility for predicting Black children's subsequent strengths in adolescence.


Journal of Affective Disorders