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A longitudinal–experimental approach to testing theories of antisocial behavior development

  • ERIC LACOURSE (a1), SYLVANA CÔTÉ (a1), DANIEL S. NAGIN (a1), FRANK VITARO (a2), MARA BRENDGEN (a2) and RICHARD E. TREMBLAY (a2)...

Extract

A longitudinal study with a nested preventive intervention was used to test five hypotheses generated from developmental theories of antisocial behavior. The longitudinal study followed 909 boys from their kindergarten year up to 17 years of age. The randomized multimodal preventive intervention targeted a subsample of boys who were rated disruptive by their kindergarten teacher. Semiparametric analyses of developmental trajectories for self-reported physical aggression, vandalism, and theft identified more types of trajectories than expected from recent theoretical models. Also, these trajectories did not confirm theoretical models, which suggest a general increase of antisocial behavior during adolescence. The majority of boys were on either a low-level antisocial behavior trajectory or a declining trajectory. Less than 6% appeared to follow a trajectory of chronic antisocial behavior. Comparisons between disruptive and nondisruptive kindergarten boys confirmed the hypothesis that disruptive preschool children are at higher risk of following trajectories of frequent antisocial behavior. Comparisons between treated and untreated disruptive boys confirmed that an intensive preventive intervention between 7 and 9 years of age, which included parent training and social skills training, could change the long-term developmental trajectories of physical aggression, vandalism, and theft for disruptive kindergarten boys in low socioeconomic areas. The results suggest that trajectories of violent behavior can be deflected by interventions that do not specifically target the physiological deficits that are often hypothesized to be a causal factor. The value of longitudinal–experimental studies from early childhood onward is discussed.

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Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Richard E. Tremblay, GRIP, University of Montréal, 3050 Edouard-Montpetit, Montréal, H3T 1J7, Canada; E-mail: gripret@umontreal.ca.

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