The stability of problem behavior across the preschool years: an empirical approach in the general population
Van de Schoot, Rens
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This study examined the stability of internalizing and externalizing problems from age 1.5 to 6 years, while taking into account developmental changes in the presentation of problems. The study comprised a population-based cohort of 7,206 children (50.4 % boys). At ages 1.5, 3, and 6 years, mothers reported on problem behavior using the Child Behavior Checklist/1.5-5 (CBCL/1.5-5). At each age we performed latent profile analysis on the CBCL/1.5-5 scales. Latent transition analysis (LTA) was applied to study the stability of problem behavior. Profiles of problem behavior varied across ages. At each age, 82-87 % of the children did not have problems whereas approximately 2 % showed a profile of co-occurring internalizing and externalizing problems. This profile was more severe (with higher scores) at 6 years than at earlier ages. A predominantly internalizing profile only emerged at 6 years, while a profile with externalizing problems and emotional reactivity was present at each age. LTA showed that, based on profiles at 1.5 and 3 years, it was difficult to predict the type of profile at 6 years. Children with a profile of co-occurring internalizing and externalizing problems early in life were most likely to show problem behavior at 6 years. This study shows that the presentation of problem behavior changes across the preschool period and that heterotypic continuity of problems is very common among preschoolers. Children with co-occurring internalizing and externalizing problems were most likely to show persisting problems. The use of evidence-based treatment for these young children may prevent psychiatric problems across the life course.
- Faculty of Humanities