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The bidirectional pathways between internalizing and externalizing problems and academic performance from 6 to 18 years

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 July 2016

Jan Van der Ende*
Erasmus University Medical Center
Frank C. Verhulst
Erasmus University Medical Center
Henning Tiemeier
Erasmus University Medical Center
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Jan van der Ende, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology, Room KP-2867, Erasmus University Medical Center, P.O. Box 2060, Rotterdam 3000 CB, The Netherlands; E-mail:


Internalizing and externalizing problems are associated with poor academic performance, both concurrently and longitudinally. Important questions are whether problems precede academic performance or vice versa, whether both internalizing and externalizing are associated with academic problems when simultaneously tested, and whether associations and their direction depend on the informant providing information. These questions were addressed in a sample of 816 children who were assessed four times. The children were 6–10 years at baseline and 14–18 years at the last assessment. Parent-reported internalizing and externalizing problems and teacher-reported academic performance were tested in cross-lagged models to examine bidirectional paths between these constructs. These models were compared with cross-lagged models testing paths between teacher-reported internalizing and externalizing problems and parent-reported academic performance. Both final models revealed similar pathways from mostly externalizing problems to academic performance. No paths emerged from internalizing problems to academic performance. Moreover, paths from academic performance to internalizing and externalizing problems were only found when teachers reported on children's problems and not for parent-reported problems. Additional model tests revealed that paths were observed in both childhood and adolescence. Externalizing problems place children at increased risk of poor academic performance and should therefore be the target for interventions.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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