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01-02-2019 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 2/2019 Open Access

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 2/2019

Developmental Trajectories of Conduct Problems and Cumulative Risk from Early Childhood to Adolescence

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 2/2019
Leslie Morrison Gutman, Heather Joshi, Ingrid Schoon


Pathways into and out of conduct problems differ by circumstances experienced since infancy. There is a research gap in understanding how these developmental patterns vary according to the timing and persistence of risk and whether there are differences across ecological domains. This study examines variations in trajectories of conduct problems between ages 3 to 14 years and associated child, family and socio-economic risk factors from ages 9 months to 14 years, drawing on the UK Millennium Cohort Study (n = 17,206, 49% female), a nationally representative longitudinal study of children born between 2000/02. Group-based modeling was used to identify four distinct trajectories of conduct problems: low (56%), persistent high (8%), childhood-limited (23%) and adolescent-onset (13%). All three problem pathways were associated with high levels of exposure to risk, particularly early socio-economic and persisting child and family risks. However, while for the persistent and adolescent-onset pathways, exposure to higher levels of family and child risks continued through adolescence, it receded for the childhood-limited trajectory. The effects of early socio-economic disadvantage persisted for those on the adolescent-onset trajectory, highlighting the importance of early markers for this later onset group. Maternal smoking in pregnancy continued to be a significant predictor for all three conduct problem groups, even up to age 14 years. The findings indicate that different influences and processes may explain diverse pathways of conduct problems. This offers insights into who and what might be targeted and when might be the most effective developmental window for intervention.

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