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Trajectories and Predictors of Children's Early-Starting Conduct Problems: Child, Family, Genetic, and Intervention Effects

  • Daniel S. Shaw (a1), Chardée A. Galán (a1), Kathryn Lemery-Chalfant (a2), Thomas J. Dishion (a2), Kit K. Elam (a2), Melvin N. Wilson (a3) and Frances Gardner (a4)...


Several research teams have previously traced patterns of emerging conduct problems (CP) from early or middle childhood. The current study expands on this previous literature by using a genetically-informed, experimental, and long-term longitudinal design to examine trajectories of early-emerging conduct problems and early childhood discriminators of such patterns from the toddler period to adolescence. The sample represents a cohort of 731 toddlers and diverse families recruited based on socioeconomic, child, and family risk, varying in urbanicity and assessed on nine occasions between ages 2 and 14. In addition to examining child, family, and community level discriminators of patterns of emerging conduct problems, we were able to account for genetic susceptibility using polygenic scores and the study's experimental design to determine whether random assignment to the Family Check-Up (FCU) discriminated trajectory groups. In addition, in accord with differential susceptibility theory, we tested whether the effects of the FCU were stronger for those children with higher genetic susceptibility. Results augmented previous findings documenting the influence of child (inhibitory control [IC], gender) and family (harsh parenting, parental depression, and educational attainment) risk. In addition, children in the FCU were overrepresented in the persistent low versus persistent high CP group, but such direct effects were qualified by an interaction between the intervention and genetic susceptibility that was consistent with differential susceptibility. Implications are discussed for early identification and specifically, prevention efforts addressing early child and family risk.


Corresponding author

Author for Correspondence: Daniel Shaw, Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, 210 S. Bouquet Street, 4101 Sennott Square, Pittsburgh, PA, USA 15260-0001. E-mail:


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