Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Levels of parental expressed emotion (EE) are prospectively associated with the symptomatic course of a range of childhood psychiatric disorders. This article reviews the literature linking parental EE to youth psychopathology and proposes a novel framework for understanding its mechanisms of action. We find that, despite noteworthy methodological limitations, parental EE is linked consistently to a more deleterious course of mood, anxiety, and psychotic disorders in youth. Its mechanism of action is unknown. Models of "toxic family stress" (referring to frequent, sustained, and uncontrollable stress without protective influences) provide one framework for understanding how high EE environments interact with individual biological vulnerabilities to promote illness onset and recurrence. Research aimed at understanding biological responses (e.g., stress reactivity, arousal) to familial EE is needed. Such work may inform efforts to understand how EE affects the course of psychiatric disorders and may guide the development of novel interventions emphasizing emotion regulation strategies.

Original publication




Journal article


Child Psychiatry Hum Dev

Publication Date





863 - 873


Child and adolescent psychopathology, Expressed emotion, Family dynamics, Adolescent, Arousal, Expressed Emotion, Family Relations, Humans, Mental Disorders, Parents, Psychology, Adolescent