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Partners, peers, and pathways: Assortative pairing and continuities in conduct disorder

  • David Quinton (a1), Andrew Pickles (a1), Barbara Maughan (a1) and Michael Rutter (a1)


The role of assortative pairing for conduct problems in the continuity of such problems with pervasive social maladaptation in early adulthood was examined in a general population inner-city sample and a high-risk group (young people raised in children's homes). Previous findings showing a switch out of conduct disorder for those in the high-risk group who had supportive cohabiting relationships in early adulthood were replicated in the general population sample, using a latent class analysis. Conduct-disordered individuals, however, were much less likely to attain supportive relationships. The reasons for this lay in a chain of environmental linkages through which conduct-disordered individuals paired assortatively with those who provided less support. This process involved unsatisfactory parenting environments, a lack of planful competence, and the membership of a deviant peer group. Protection afforded by a stable family life, a nondeviant peer group, and planful behavior reduced the risks of assortative pairing. The linking processes appeared to be the same for the general population and the high-risk samples, although having been in the children's homes related to an increased risk of a lack of support, even when the linking processes were taken into account.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: David Quinton, MRC Child Psychiatry Unit, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London SE5 8AF, England.


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Development and Psychopathology
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