A long-term look at “early starters”: Predicting adult psychosocial outcomes from childhood conduct problem trajectories.

Cyr, M., Zheng, Y., & McMahon, R. J. (2020). A long-term look at “early starters”: Predicting adult psychosocial outcomes from childhood conduct problem trajectories. Development and Psychopathology. Advance online publication.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579420000760

Abstract: Current evidence suggests that multiple pathways of "early-starting" conduct problems exist, including persisting and declining trajectories. Since relatively little is known about the early onset-declining pathway, this study examined the long-term outcomes of different childhood conduct problem trajectories in a disproportionately high-risk sample (N = 754). Parents reported on children's conduct problems at six time points (kindergarten to grade 7). At age 25, psychosocial outcomes were assessed across five domains (psychopathology, substance use, risky sexual behavior, antisocial behavior, and adaptive outcomes). Four childhood conduct problem trajectories were identified: extremely high increasing (EHI; 3.7%), high stable (HS; 22.0%), moderate decreasing (MD; 38.8%), and low decreasing (LD; 35.5%). The EHI and HS groups displayed the poorest psychosocial functioning at age 25, whereas the LD group exhibited the most positive adjustment. Although individuals in the MD group displayed relatively positive adjustment on some outcomes, they displayed more psychopathology and lower well-being in adulthood than the LD group. These findings suggest that there are diverse pathways of early-starting conduct problems, and that all early starters are at risk for later maladjustment. However, the degree and type of risk is related to the severity of conduct problems throughout childhood.