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Stability of behavior problems in very young children

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 October 2008

Susan L. Rose*
Affiliation:
Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center
Susan A. Rose
Affiliation:
Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center
Judith F. Feldman
Affiliation:
Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center
*
Requests for reprints should be sent to: Susan L. Rose, Department of Psychiatry, Montefiore Medical Center, 111 E. 210th Street, Bronx, NY 10467.

Abstract

This study examined the stability of behavior problems in 44 low SES children ages 2–5 years using the preschool and standard versions of Achenbach's Child Behavior Checklist. While scores for the present sample did not differ significantly from Achenbach's standardization sample at age 2, scores at ages 4 and 5 were somewhat elevated; this was true for the Total score, as well as for the two broad-band scores (Internalizing and Externalizing). At all ages, the Internalizing and Externalizing scores correlated highly with one another (r= .58 to .74). Stability coefficients across one to three year intervals revealed significant continuity for the Total and Externalizing scores (r= .42 to .73). Internalizing scores were stable only between ages 4 and 5 (r= .53). In addition, early Externalizing scores also predicted subsequent Internalizing scores, suggesting that early Externalizing symptomatology has diverse implications. Maternal depression and negative life events, assessed at ages 4 and 5, correlated strongly with child behavior scores at both these ages. However, neither factor accounted for the stability in childrens' symptomatology. Overall, the levels of stability found here were comparable to those reported for older children. The results are discussed in terms of developmental psychopathology, with particular attention to the finding that (a) developmentally maladaptive behavior can be identified at very young ages, even in 2-year-olds, and (b) that such behavior problems are far more persistent than hitherto believed. Such findings underscore the importance of early identification and intervention.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1989

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