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Behaviors in kindergarten are associated with trajectories of long-term welfare receipt: A 30-year population-based study

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 June 2021

Francis Vergunst*
Department of Social and Preventative Medicine, University of Montreal, Montreal, Canada Ste-Justine Hospital Research Center, University of Montreal, Montreal, Canada
Richard E. Tremblay
Ste-Justine Hospital Research Center, University of Montreal, Montreal, Canada Department of Pediatrics and Psychology, University of Montreal, Montreal, Canada School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sport Science, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Frank Vitaro
Ste-Justine Hospital Research Center, University of Montreal, Montreal, Canada School of Psycho-Education, University of Montreal, Montreal, Canada
Daniel Nagin
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Jungwee Park
Statistics Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Yann Algan
Sciences Po, OFCE, Paris, France
Elizabeth Beasley
CEPREMAP, Paris, France
Sylvana M. Côté
Department of Social and Preventative Medicine, University of Montreal, Montreal, Canada Ste-Justine Hospital Research Center, University of Montreal, Montreal, Canada INSERM U1219, University of Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France
Author for Correspondence: Francis Vergunst, DPhil, Ste-Justine Hospital Research Center, 3175, Côte Sainte-Catherine, Étage A, Local A-568, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3 T 1C5; E-mail:


This study examines the link between behavior in kindergarten and adult-life welfare receipt. Teacher-rated behavioral assessments were obtained for inattention, hyperactivity, aggression–opposition, anxiety, and prosociality when children (n=2960) were aged 5–6 years and linked to their tax return records from age 18–35 years. We used group-based based trajectory modeling to identify distinct trajectories of welfare receipt and multinomial logistic regression models to examine the association between behaviors and trajectory group membership. The child's sex, IQ, and family background were adjusted for. Four trajectories of welfare receipt were identified: low (n = 2,390, 80.7%), declining (n = 260, 8.8%), rising (n = 150, 5.2%), and chronic (n = 160, 5.4%). Relative to the low trajectory, inattention and aggression–opposition at age 6 years were associated with increased risk of following a declining, rising, and chronic trajectory of welfare receipt, independent of hyperactivity and anxiety. Prosocial behaviors were independently associated with a lower risk of following a chronic trajectory. This study shows that kindergarten children exhibiting high inattention and aggression–opposition and low prosocial behaviors may be at increased risk of long-term welfare receipt in adulthood. The implications for early screening, monitoring, and prevention are discussed.

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© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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