Journal of Family Psychology
Expressed Emotion in Homeless Families: A
Methodological Study of the Five-Minute Speech Sample
Angela J. Narayan, Janette E. Herbers, Elizabeth J. Plowman, Abigail H. Gewirtz, and Ann S.
Online First Publication, June 18, 2012. doi: 10.1037/a0028968
Narayan, A. J., Herbers, J. E., Plowman, E. J., Gewirtz, A. H., & Masten, A. S. (2012, June 18).
Expressed Emotion in Homeless Families: A Methodological Study of the Five-Minute Speech
Sample. Journal of Family Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0028968
Expressed Emotion in Homeless Families:
A Methodological Study of the Five-Minute Speech Sample
Angela J. Narayan, Janette E. Herbers, Elizabeth J. Plowman, Abigail H. Gewirtz, and Ann S. Masten
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Conducted in an emergency homeless shelter, this study aimed to validate parents’ expressed emotion (EE)
and examine how different aspects of parents’ EE, including positive emotional expressions, related to
observed parenting and children’s school adjustment. Using 3 different coding approaches, we assessed the
reliability and validity of 4 aspects of the FMSS—critical statements, positive statements, negative affect, and
warmth—in relation to negative and positive parenting behaviors and children’s behavioral and relational
adjustment in school. The FMSS was administered to 39 parents about their 4- to 7-year-old children.
Parent–child dyads participated in a 45-min videotaped sequence of games and tasks later coded for parenting
behavior. Results indicated that parents’ warmth during the FMSS was related to more positive and effective
observed parenting behaviors. Critical statements and negative affect during the FMSS were related to more
coercive parenting behaviors. Negative affect also was related to teachers’ reports of children’s increased
externalizing behavior, less prosocial behavior with peers, and more conflict with teachers. Criticism main-
tained associations with observed parenting, even for parents who provided less than 5 min of speech. This
study provides preliminary but promising evidence for the validity of FMSS scores in a high-risk sample of
families and, specifically, for aspects of the FMSS to be efficient correlates of parenting behavior and aspects
of children’s school adjustment. Challenges, limitations, and promising features of the FMSS for use with
highly disadvantaged parents are discussed.
Keywords: FMSS, expressed emotion, homelessness, observed parenting practices, children’s school adjustment
Parent–child relationships in homeless and other disadvantaged,
mobile families can be challenging to study for many reasons.
Investigators may have difficulty accessing mobile populations,
and families may experience stress or time constraints related to
mobility, poverty, and crisis. Nonetheless, understanding these
relationships and their role in risk and protective processes may be
critical for informing programs to support families in crisis and
promoting child resilience through interventions that target parent-
ing and parent–child relationships (Masten, 2007). Valid and
efficient measures of parenting are particularly needed to under-
stand family relationships in transient, chaotic living conditions
such as emergency shelters, where stressors may pose risks to
children’s adaptive development (Samuels, Shinn, & Buckner,
2011). At the same time, investigators must be sensitive to the
stress and challenges confronting these families.
The Five-Minute Speech Sample (FMSS) measures aspects of
expressed emotion (EE), generally defined as a parent’s emotional
tone toward the child (Magan ˜a et al., 1986). The FMSS is a highly
efficient measure that has shown considerable promise as a valid,
brief tool to predict parenting behaviors and young children’s
adjustment problems from EE scores and, particularly, from par-
ents’ criticism (e.g., McCarty, Lau, Valeri, & Weisz, 2004; Peris &
Hinshaw, 2003). During the FMSS, a parent is asked to talk about
a child for 5 min with audio recordings later scored for criticism
(Magan ˜a-Amato, 1993). Recently, investigators have also exam-
ined the predictive potential of positive emotional expressions
from the FMSS, such as positive statements (Kaugars, Moody,
Dennis, & Klinnert, 2007) and warmth (Caspi et al., 2004). The
purpose of this study was to validate four FMSS scores in relation
to observed parenting in homeless families and child adjustment at
school: criticism (Magan ˜a et al., 1986), positive statements
Angela J. Narayan, Janette E. Herbers, and Ann S. Masten, Institute of
Child Development, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; Elizabeth J. Plow-
man, Department of Family Social Science, University of Minnesota, Twin
Cities; Abigail H. Gewirtz, Institute of Child Development and Department of
Family Social Science, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
Preparation of this paper was supported in part by a predoctoral fellow-
ship from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH;
5T32MH015755) awarded to Angela Narayan; a grant from the National
Science Foundation (NSF No. 0745643), and the 2011/2012 Fesler-
Lampert Chair in Urban and Regional Affairs at the University of Minne-
sota, both awarded to Ann Masten; and the Center on Personalized Pre-
vention Research (NIMH #P20 MH085987; PI Gerald August). Any
opinions, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this paper are
those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF, the
NIMH, or the University of Minnesota. The authors are deeply grateful for
the support of the families, teachers, and staff who made this study possible
in the Twin Cities’ metro area shelters and schools.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Angela J.
Narayan, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, 51 East
River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Journal of Family Psychology
2012, Vol. 00, No. 00, 000–000
© 2012 American Psychological Association
(Kaugars et al., 2007), negative affect, and warmth (Caspi et al.,
According to past research, parents’ criticism relates to unsup-
portive parent–child interactions. For example, critical parents
were more likely to evoke children’s negative reactions and react
negatively in turn, whereas uncritical parents were more likely to
evoke children’s neutral or positive reactions (Simoneau, Miklow-
itz, & Saleem, 1998). Critical parents also displayed increased
antagonism, disgust, harshness, and lower responsiveness with
children (McCarty et al., 2004). Theoretically, parental criticism
from the FMSS could reflect a family atmosphere of parent–child
negative responsiveness, such as an environment rife with esca-
lating cycles best conceptualized as coercive processes (Forgatch
& DeGarmo, 1999).
Studies also suggest that FMSS scores relate to children’s ad-
justment problems. Criticism was related to increased externaliz-
ing problems (Peris & Hinshaw, 2003), as were increased negative
affect and decreased warmth (Caspi et al., 2004). Past investigators
have hypothesized that criticism may correlate with, or stem from,
parents’ internalizing problems or life stress; however, after ac-
counting for these variables, criticism from the FMSS was
uniquely associated with children’s adjustment problems (Peris &
Hinshaw, 2003). These studies suggest that negative family envi-
ronments may increase children’s behavior problems, yet few
studies have examined criticism in low-income minority families
(Kwon et al., 2006). Moreover, little is known about the validity of
positive aspects of the FMSS for observed parenting or child
adjustment in highly disadvantaged families. To our knowledge,
no studies have been done using the FMSS in homeless families.
The current study was designed to begin addressing these gaps.
Efficient methodology for assessing family functioning in tran-
sient, high-risk contexts is needed to understand what factors
differentiate negative and positive parenting in adversity. Impov-
erished parents face a host of risk factors, such as economic and
emotional stress, which can limit their ability to parent warmly
and effectively and increase coercion and child maladjustment
(Conger et al., 2002; Elder, Eccles, Ardelt, & Lord, 1995; Gewirtz,
DeGarmo, Plowman, August, & Realmuto, 2009). Moreover, par-
ents experiencing homelessness tend to have increased mental
health issues, more residential mobility and stressful life events,
lower educational attainment, and fewer supportive resources com-
pared with low-income housed families (Bassuk et al., 1997;
Samuels et al., 2011). However, not all parenting in adversity is
compromised (Masten, 2007). Efficient, validated measures such
as the FMSS might help to clarify how emotional aspects of
parent–child relationships relate to positive parenting and child
Measures of parenting typically involve lengthy family ques-
tionnaires, time-intensive observational assessments, and exten-
sive self-report measures (e.g., Conger et al., 2002; Gewirtz et al.,
2009). Each of these strategies has shown value in broadening our
current understanding of parenting practices in high-risk settings;
however, families in crisis may find lengthy measures difficult to
complete. Scheduling impoverished, high-risk or homeless fami-
lies to participate in time-consuming assessments may be chal-
lenging if parents’ priorities are to secure children’s basic needs
and search for stable jobs, housing, and childcare. The FMSS
could be a useful research tool for providing information on
aspects of parents’ emotions in high-risk, mobile families in tan-
dem with lengthier measures, or when administering lengthier
measures is less feasible.
Research methodologists, interventionists, and policymakers
seeking to promote positive parenting could also benefit from
empirically validated measures that are brief and easy to admin-
ister, particularly for studying parenting practices in mobile fam-
ilies. With demonstrated practical utility and methodological rigor
in clinical and nonclinical samples, FMSS scores have the poten-
tial to relate to and predict aspects of observed parenting in
The goals of this study were to examine the reliability and
validity of the FMSS in homeless families with respect to four
different aspects of EE: the traditional measure of criticism and
scores to reflect positive statements, negative affect, and warmth
for each hypothesis. The following hypotheses were tested: FMSS
scores (a) can be reliably coded from the speech of parents who are
residing in an emergency shelter context; (b) are related to ob-
served parenting practices; and (c) are related to children’s behav-
ior problems and relations with teacher and peers. The associations
between FMSS scores and parents’ internalizing problems and life
stress were also examined, as previous studies have evaluated
whether these variables are potential correlates or sources of
parents’ EE, and specifically, criticism.
Participants included 39 primary caregivers (mean age ? 29.31
years, standard deviation [SD] ? 6.00, range ? 21.83 to 47.39)
and their children (18 females, 21 males; mean age ? 6.07 years,
SD ? .76, range ? 4.33 to 7.50) who were living at a large, urban
emergency shelter over one summer. Parents (36 mothers, 2 fa-
thers, and 1 grandmother) were 85% African American, 8% Cau-
casian, and 7% other, and children were 82% African American,
3% Caucasian, and 15% mixed race. Families participated as part
of an ongoing research program investigating the effects of par-
enting and children’s executive functioning on children’s school
readiness. Families were eligible if they had a child entering
kindergarten or first grade in the fall. Families learned of the study
through posted fliers, notices in mailboxes, shelter staff, informa-
tional tables set up during activities at the shelter, and other
residents. They were invited to participate at least three days after
they moved in (to allow for adjustment to the shelter). Parents
provided informed consent, and the University of Minnesota in-
stitutional review board approved all study procedures. Parents
received honorarium payments (gift cards), children received small
gifts for participating, and teachers received a small honorarium
for reporting on children’s adjustment in the fall.
Parents completed a short interview, including the FMSS and
information about family demographics, stress, and mental health,
while children completed cognitive and executive functioning
tasks separately. Then, the dyad completed a series of interaction
audio recorded and asked to speak for 5 min about what kind of a
During the parent interview, caregivers were
NARAYAN, HERBERS, PLOWMAN, GEWIRTZ, AND MASTEN
person their child was and how the two of them got along.
Audiotapes were later coded for four aspects of expressed emotion.
The traditional measure of criticism (Magan ˜a-Amato, 1993) and a
composite of positive statements (Kaugars et al., 2007) were coded
by a pair of raters. One rater was previously trained to excellent
agreement (? ? .80) in the standard FMSS coding system
(Magan ˜a-Amato, 1993) and coded all tapes, and one rater was
trained for the study and coded a subset of tapes. Negative affect
and warmth were coded by two additional raters trained to excel-
lent reliability who used the exact coding system outlined in Caspi
et al. (2004); their scores were averaged. None of the FMSS raters
had participated in data collection and all were blind to this study’s
measures at the time of coding.
Largely based on discrete critical statements, crit-
icism was scored on a 3-point scale: high criticism (i.e., a negative
initial statement, negative statement about the relationship, or at
least one harsh adjective about the child; n ? 9); borderline
criticism (desire to change something about the child or a less
harsh statement; n ? 4); or low criticism (none of the above; n ?
24; Magan ˜a-Amato, 1993). Weighted kappa coefficients showed
excellent agreement, ? ? .85.
Positive composite (PC).
The PC score (Kaugars et al., 2007)
was the sum of parents’ positive statements (e.g., “My child is very
smart”) and statements of love (e.g., “I love my child”), and an
extra point for a positive initial statement (first complete thought
about the child), and a description of a positive relationship (mean
[M] ? 3.43, SD ? 2.61). There was good agreement for the
variables composing the PC (interclass correlation coefficients
[ICCs] ? .73 to 1.00).
Negativity (ICC ? .89; M ? 1.37, SD ?
1.06) was rated on a 0- to 5-point scale for expressions or tone of
disparagement, resentment, or hostility toward the child.
Warmth (ICC ? .85; M ? 3.26, SD ? 1.18) was
rated on a 0- to 5-point scale for expressions or tone of affection,
enthusiasm, sympathy, empathy, and enjoyment of being with the
child (Caspi et al., 2004). Warmth was based on the tone and
prosody of parents’ speech and not on specific comments, so
parents could receive a high PC score that was low on warmth.
Observed parenting practices.
sessed using observed Family Interaction Tasks (FITs), originally
developed to target coercive parent–child relationships (Forgatch
& DeGarmo, 1999) and modified for use with homeless families
(Gewirtz et al., 2009). Each dyad participated in videotaped FITs,
eight well-validated discussion and game tasks (DeGarmo, Patter-
son, & Forgatch, 2004). The parenting variables have demon-
strated good reliability and validity in a similar sample of high-risk
families (Gewirtz et al., 2009).
During the FITs, parents and children participated first in free
play, in which the parent had been previously instructed to deter
the child from playing with attractive toys (“forbidden toys”),
followed by clean up, in which the parent was instructed to tell the
child to put the toys away. Then, there were two 5-min discussions
of ongoing family issues (e.g., fighting with siblings, cleaning
one’s room), individually selected by the parent and child, a
discussion to plan a fun family activity, and three games designed
to elicit cooperation and competition: a labyrinth board, a guessing
game, and a geometric puzzle task. Two additional independent
raters (who had not participated in data collection and were blind
to study measures and hypotheses) rated parenting practices from
Parenting practices were as-
multiple items that were all anchored on 4- or 5-point (e.g., 1 to 4
or 1 to 5) Likert scales (DeGarmo et al., 2004). Interrater reliability
was computed and then all ratings were conferenced. All items
were rescaled to 5-point scales and averaged to form each ob-
served parenting behavior variable.
Rated from the free play, clean up, two
issues discussions, and three games, positive involvement (M ?
3.61, SD ? .55, 31 items) was parental warmth, empathy, encour-
agement, affection, and respect for child (e.g., “Mother was affec-
tionate with child” and “Mother seemed to be friendly and pleas-
ant”; Cronbach’s alpha ? .90, ICC ? .86).
Rated from the two issue discussions for
quality of solutions, problem solving (M ? 1.93, SD ? .50, 18
items) described the extent of resolution, apparent participant
satisfaction, and likelihood of follow-through (e.g., “The family
worked together as a team” and “There was a wide range of
solutions suggested”); Cronbach’s alpha ? .87, ICC ? .81).
Inept coercive discipline.
Inept discipline (M ? 2.08, SD ?
.77, 10 items) was rated from the entire session for parents being
overly strict, inconsistent, or pleading for compliance (e.g., “Uses
nagging or nattering to get compliance” and “Seems tentative,
indecisive or unsure of self when disciplining the child”; Cron-
bach’s alpha ? .92, ICC ? .84).
Rated from the three games, skill
encouragement (M ? 2.10, SD ? .77, 9 items) was how well
parents praised, divided the tasks into manageable steps, rein-
forced success, and corrected appropriately (e.g., “Provided appro-
priate guidance/corrections when the task became difficult,” “Re-
inforced correct responses”; Cronbach’s alpha ? .85, ICC ? .86).
Overall effective parenting.
SD ? .85) was the mean of the Z-scores of the four variables, after
reverse-scoring Inept Discipline (Cronbach’s alpha ? .85). A third
rater, independently trained in rating the FITs and not involved in
data collection, rated 11 videos for validity of the rating system in
this sample (ICC ? .71 for overall parenting).
Parents’ internalizing problems.
the Hopkins Symptom Checklist (HSCL; Cronbach’s alpha ? .89),
25 items of internalizing symptoms (on 0- to 3-point scales)
experienced over the past week (Glass, Allan, Uhlenhut, Kimball,
& Borinstein, 1978). Total scores were derived by summing and
averaging all endorsed items (M ? 1.80, SD ? .57).
As part of the parent interview, parents com-
pleted a short form of the Life Events Questionnaire (LEQ; Mas-
ten, Neeman, & Andenas, 1994), composed of 30 items of poten-
tially stressful events or transitions viewed as uncontaminated by
the child’s behavior. A composite was computed by counting the
number of endorsed items that had occurred over the past 12
months (e.g., “A family member died this past year”; M ? 6.62,
SD ? 3.31).
In the fall, with permission of the parents,
teachers were asked to complete the MacArthur Health and Be-
havior Questionnaire (HBQ; Armstrong & Goldstein, 2003) for
children’s behaviors and relationships at school. For each total
score, endorsed items were summed within the scale and averaged.
Behavior problems were measured on the 0- to 2-point internaliz-
ing subscale (14 items, M ? .53, SD ? .38), and externalizing
subscale (30 items, M ? .52, SD ? .45). Children’s relational
adjustment was measured on the 0- to 5-point teacher–child close-
ness (5 items, M ? 3.90, SD ? .91) and conflict (5 items, M ?
Overall parenting (M ? ?.01,
Parents were administered
FIVE-MINUTE SPEECH SAMPLE IN HOMELESS FAMILIES
2.27, SD ? 1.20) subscales, and the 0- to 3-point peer prosocial
behavior scale (20 items, M ? 1.02, SD ? .56).
Data Analytic Plan and Missing Data
Given that FMSS scores were not normally distributed, Spear-
man correlations were appropriate for all data analyses. Outliers
were trimmed to the first nonextreme value (within boundaries of
less than 1.5 times the interquartile range of the variable’s box
plot). Scatterplots illustrated that findings were not driven by
extreme individual cases for any of the variables.
During the FMSS, only 15 parents spoke for the full 5 min
(mean duration for whole sample ? 3.40 min, SD ? 1.68, range ?
.23 to 5.00). One parent declined to complete the FMSS, and one
interview was not properly recorded; thus, the total FMSS sample
included 37 parents. Given the variability in duration, analyses
were conducted on the full sample of FMSS (n ? 37) and a subset
(n ? 27) in which caregivers spoke for at least 2.5 min (M ? 4.11,
SD ? 1.11). To our knowledge, previous studies have not exam-
ined whether less than 5 min of speech provides valid EE; how-
ever, we deemed this to be an important issue to address in using
the FMSS with very high-risk families. Given that disadvantaged
parents may have difficulty talking freely for 5 min (e.g., due to
lower verbal ability or less experience with verbal testing) and
also may have limited time to participate in research, we sought to
examine the psychometric properties of shorter FMSS tapes to
inform future research in high-risk families.
The duration of speech was not related to the amount of criti-
cism parents expressed; all parents who were rated as borderline or
highly critical made such statements at the beginning of the FMSS
(mean duration of speech to criticism ? 1.07 min, SD ? .89).
Parents in the longer-speaking (?2.5 min) subset had higher mean
levels of negative affect, F(1, 35) ? 8.49, p ? .01, although they
did not differ from the shorter-speaking parents on positive state-
ments or warmth. The longer-speaking parents also reported more
total internalizing problems, F(1, 37) ? 5.70, p ? .05, and life
stress, F(1, 37) ? 7.71, p ? .01. Although parents’ intellectual
functioning was not assessed, FMSS duration was not related to
parents’ educational level, rs? ?.17, p ? n.s.
Data on child outcomes were not available for all families. Due
to high mobility, some children could not be located in schools
after leaving the shelter. Teacher reports were available for 28
children, 26 with parents who had an FMSS, and 20 who had
spoken for at least 2.5 min. T tests showed there were no signif-
icant differences in parent characteristics, FMSS scores, or parent-
ing behaviors between families whose children did and did not
have teacher reports.
Criticism was the only FMSS variable that was significantly
associated with all measures of observed parenting, regardless of
whether parents spoke for greater or less than 2.5 min. For the full
sample, higher criticism was related to more coercive discipline
(rs? .34, p ? .05), less positive involvement (rs? ?.34, p ? .05),
poorer problem solving (rs? ?.39, p ? .05), less skill encour-
agement (rs? ?.37, p ? .05), and less effective parenting (rs?
?.43, p ? .01).
Correlations among FMSS scores and parenting variables for
the longer-speaking parents are provided in Table 1. In the
subset of parents who spoke for at least 2.5 min, negative affect
and warmth also were significantly associated with observed
parenting, including positive parenting behaviors (see Table 1).
The PC was not related to observed parenting. None of the
FMSS scores were related to parents’ internalizing problems or
life stress (see Table 2).
In the full sample, there were no significant associations be-
tween any of the FMSS scores and the teacher reports of child
functioning. For parents who spoke for longer than 2.5 min,
negative affect was significantly associated with children’s behav-
ioral and relational adjustment (see Table 2). These findings
should be interpreted with caution because of the small sample
size, which limited power and the feasibility to adequately control
for multiple comparisons.
The current study examined the psychometric properties of the
FMSS in the context of homelessness, with a focus on validating
scores based on the FMSS with observed parenting and providing
information on how different aspects of the FMSS relate to par-
enting and child adjustment. Our findings should be interpreted
Correlations Between Parents’ Five-Minute Speech Sample (FMSS) Scores and Observed Parenting Behaviors
2. Positive composite
3. Negative affect
5. Positive involvement
6. Problem solving
7. Coercive discipline
8. Skill encouragement
9. Effective parenting
?p ? .05.
These correlations pertain to parents (n ? 27) who provided at least 2.5 min of speech on the FMSS.
??p ? .01.
NARAYAN, HERBERS, PLOWMAN, GEWIRTZ, AND MASTEN
with caution due to small sample size. Parents’ criticism (Magan ˜a
et al., 1986), largely based on one or two comments in this sample,
was the most efficient correlate of observed parenting, even with
only minimal speech provided. Warmth and negative affect (Caspi
et al., 2004) were important correlates of parenting and children’s
school adjustment, respectively, when more speech was available.
A composite of positive statements (Kaugars et al., 2007) did not
relate to parenting or child adjustment in this sample.
This study provides preliminary evidence that aspects of EE,
including expressions of warmth, are valid correlates of observed
parenting in sheltered families. Homeless parents who were more
critical about their children engaged in less positive and more
coercive parenting behaviors, even given the limitation of minimal
speech to measure criticism. Importantly, not all homeless parents
were critical about their children; rather, criticism may be one
factor that differentiates the quality of observed parenting in home-
less families. Warmth also was related to more positive and effec-
tive parenting practices, and negative affect was related to more
coercive and less positive parenting, but only for parents who
spoke for at least 2.5 min. For affect scores based on the FMSS to
be valid markers of parenting, longer durations may be necessary.
Negative affect in the longer-speech samples also related to
reports of children’s worse adjustment, including more external-
izing problems and teacher–child conflict and less prosocial be-
havior toward peers. Contrary to past findings (Peris & Hinshaw,
2003), criticism was not related to externalizing problems in this
sample. It is possible that parents’ negative affect was a more
salient risk factor for very high-risk children’s behavior problems
and relationships with teachers and peers. Alternatively, cultural
differences may exist in the meaning of parental criticism within
African American families (Rosenfarb, Bellack, & Aziz, 2006).
However, it is also possible that the current study’s small sample
precluded a replication with criticism and children’s externalizing
problems. These findings need to be replicated in a larger sample.
The finding that FMSS duration varied across parents warrants
discussion. Some parents may have been unprepared or unaccus-
tomed to providing open-ended commentaries or hesitant to share
information about their children with strangers. To maintain rap-
port in this stressful environment, evaluators permitted parents to
stop the FMSS when they desired. However, with high-risk sam-
ples and young children, it may be important to consider using
additional open-ended queries (Sandberg, Rutter, & Jarvi, 2003)
along with the standard prompts (Magan ˜a-Amato, 1993). This
practice may be helpful for impoverished families with young
children and parents who may be hesitant to talk with only mini-
mal prompts. For some parents in this sample, decreased verbal
ability also may have related to shorter speech samples. Future
FMSS research in high-risk samples could control for aspects of
parents’ intellectual functioning.
It is also noteworthy that parents who reported they were more
distressed talked longer about their children, although they were
not more critical than less distressed parents. These parents may
have been more forthcoming or insightful about reporting distress,
inclined to elaborate about their children, or more in need of
expressing their emotions. Future investigators using the FMSS
with very disadvantaged families could also examine the potential
significance of individual differences in personality or emotional
status for parents’ speech duration.
This study had a number of strengths. To our knowledge, it is
the first to examine the psychometric properties of the FMSS in
predominantly African American, sheltered families with indepen-
dent ratings of FMSS scores and observed parenting, and with
multi-informant data. It also highlighted that aspects of EE, such as
criticism, may be valid with less than 5 min of speech. Further-
more, while studies have emphasized the predictive utility of
parents’ criticism and negative affect for child adjustment (Caspi
et al., 2004; Peris & Hinshaw, 2003), few have examined how
positive aspects of the FMSS relate to effective parenting. In
disadvantaged families, parents’ warmth about children may be a
promising indicator of positive parenting, identified as a protective
factor in impoverished contexts (Conger et al., 2002; Elder et al.,
1995; Masten, 2007).
Primary limitations of this study included small sample size and
variability in duration of speech samples. Additional important
limitations involved sample characteristics, missing data, and in-
ability to control for multiple comparisons. The sample was drawn
from a single shelter, clearly limiting generalizability. Teacher
data were missing for 11 children who could not be located in
schools, even with assistance from local districts, likely due to
their families’ high residential mobility. Assessments were essen-
tially cross-sectional with short-term outcomes in school. Longi-
tudinal data in larger representative samples of homeless families
would provide insight into directional relations among FMSS
scores, observed parenting, and child behavior.
In summary, this study provided novel and promising, yet
preliminary, information about the psychometric properties of the
Correlations Between Parents’ Five-Minute Speech Sample (FMSS) Scores, Parent Adjustment From the Parent Interview, and Child
Adjustment in School as Rated by Teachers on the Health and Behavior Questionnaire (HBQ)
Parent adjustmentChild adjustment
?p ? .05.
These correlations pertain to parents (n ? 27) who provided at least 2.5 min of speech on the FMSS.
FIVE-MINUTE SPEECH SAMPLE IN HOMELESS FAMILIES
FMSS in predominantly minority, sheltered families with young Download full-text
children. Parents’ criticism from the FMSS provided a useful and
brief gauge of emotions that related to negative interactions with
children, and its utility held with less than 5 min of speech. Our
results also provided preliminary evidence that parents’ negative
affect related to aspects of homeless children’s school adjustment.
Clinicians working with high-risk families and policymakers seek-
ing to promote parenting could use the FMSS as an efficient,
effective tool for understanding how parents’ emotions toward
children relate to parenting and child behavior.
Future research might further delineate the potential and limi-
tations of the FMSS in relation to other methodologies that assess
parenting and child competence over time and with specific pop-
ulations. For homeless and other families in crisis or distress,
additional information is needed on the stability of FMSS scores,
the longer-term predictive validity, and the ways in which parents’
emotional functioning and distress may influence how they com-
plete the FMSS.
Armstrong, J. M., & Goldstein, L. H. (2003). Manual for the MacArthur
Health and Behavior Questionnaire (HBQ 1.0). MacArthur Foundation
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Received November 4, 2011
Revision received May 1, 2012
Accepted May 2, 2012
NARAYAN, HERBERS, PLOWMAN, GEWIRTZ, AND MASTEN