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Conduct problems and head injuries increase the risk of delinquency and share a bidirectional association. However, how they link across development is unknown. The present study aimed to identify their linked developmental pathways and associated risk factors. Latent class analysis was modeled from Millennium Cohort Study data (n = 8,600) to identify linked pathways of conduct problem symptoms and head injuries. Head injuries were parent-reported from ages 3 to 14 and conduct problems from ages 3 to 17 using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Multinomial logistic regression then identified various risk factors associated with pathway membership. Four distinct pathways were identified. Most participants displayed low-level conduct problem symptoms and head injuries (n = 6,422; 74.7%). Three groups were characterized by clinically relevant levels of conduct problem symptoms and high-risk head injuries in childhood (n = 1,422; 16.5%), adolescence (n = 567; 6.6%), or persistent across development (n = 189; 2.2%). These clinically relevant pathways were associated with negative maternal parenting styles. These findings demonstrate how pathways of conduct problem symptoms are uniquely linked with distinct head injury pathways. Suggestions for general preventative intervention targets include early maternal negative parenting styles. Pathway-specific interventions are also required targeting cumulative risk at different ecological levels.
Infant temperament predicts harsh parenting, and attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms. Moreover, childhood maltreatment has consistently been associated with later ADHD symptoms. We hypothesized that infant negative emotionality predicted both ADHD symptoms and maltreatment, and that there was a bidirectional association between maltreatment experiences and ADHD symptoms.
The study used secondary data from the longitudinal Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N = 2860). A structural equation model was conducted, using maximum likelihood with robust standard errors. Infant negative emotionality acted as a predictor. Outcome variables were childhood maltreatment and ADHD symptoms at ages 5 and 9.
The model demonstrated good fit (root-mean-square error of approximation = .02, comparative fit index = .99, Tucker–Lewis index = .96). Infant negative emotionality positively predicted childhood maltreatment at ages 5 and 9, and ADHD symptoms at age 5. Age 5 maltreatment/ADHD symptoms predicted age 9 ADHD symptoms/maltreatment. Additionally, both childhood maltreatment and ADHD symptoms at age 5 mediated the association between negative emotionality and childhood maltreatment/ADHD symptoms at age 9.
Given the bidirectional relationship between ADHD and experiences of maltreatment, it is vital to identify early shared risk factors to prevent negative downstream effects and support families at risk. Our study showed that infant negative emotionality, poses one of these risk factors.
Institutional deprivation in early childhood is associated with neuropsychological deficits in adolescence. Using 20-year follow-up data from a unique natural experiment – the large-scale adoption of children exposed to extreme deprivation in Romanian institutions in the 1980s –we examined, for the first time, whether such deficits are still present in adulthood and whether they are associated with deprivation-related symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Adult neuropsychological functioning was assessed across five domains (inhibitory control, emotion recognition, decision-making, prospective memory and IQ) in 70 previously institutionalized adoptees (mean age = 25.3, 50% female) and 22 non-deprived UK adoptees (comparison group, mean age = 24.6, 41% female). ADHD and ASD symptoms were assessed using parent-completed questionnaires.
Early institutionalization was associated with impaired performance on all tasks in adulthood. Prospective memory deficits persisted after controlling for IQ. ADHD and ASD symptoms were positively correlated. After controlling for ASD symptoms, ADHD symptoms remained associated with deficits in IQ, prospective memory, proactive inhibition, decision-making quality and emotion recognition. ASD symptoms were not independently associated with neuropsychological deficits when accounting for their overlap with ADHD symptoms. Multiple regression analysis revealed that the link between childhood deprivation and adult ADHD symptoms was statistically explained by deprivation-related differences in adult IQ and prospective memory.
These results represent some of the most compelling evidence to date of the enduring power of early, time-limited childhood adversity to impair long-term neuropsychological functioning across the lifespan – effects that are linked specifically to deprivation-related adult ADHD symptoms.
Institutionally deprived young children often display distinctive patterns of attachment, classified as insecure/other (INS/OTH), with their adoptive parents. The associations between INS/OTH and developmental trajectories of mental health and neurodevelopmental symptoms were examined. Age 4 attachment status was determined for 97 Romanian adoptees exposed to up to 24 months of deprivation in Romanian orphanages and 49 nondeprived UK adoptees. Autism, inattention/overactivity and disinhibited-social-engagement symptoms, emotional problems, and IQ were measured at 4, 6, 11, and 15 years and in young adulthood. Romanian adoptees with over 6 months deprivation (Rom>6) were more often classified as INS/OTH than UK and Romanian adoptees with less than 6 months deprivation combined. INS/OTH was associated with cognitive impairment at age 4 years. The interaction between deprivation, attachment status, and age for autism spectrum disorder assessment was significant, with greater symptom persistence in Rom>6 INS/OTH(+) than other groups. This effect was reduced when IQ at age 4 was controlled for. Age 4 INS/OTH in Rom>6 was associated with worse autism spectrum disorder outcomes up to two decades later. Its association with cognitive impairment at age 4 is consistent with INS/OTH being an early marker of this negative developmental trajectory, rather than its cause.
Early-life institutional deprivation produces disinhibited social engagement (DSE). Portrayed as a childhood condition, little is known about the persistence of DSE-type behaviours into, presentation during, and their impact on, functioning in adulthood.
We examine these issues in the young adult follow-up of the English and Romanian Adoptees study.
A total of 122 of the original 165 Romanian adoptees who had spent up to 43 months as children in Ceauşescu's Romanian orphanages and 42 UK adoptees were assessed for DSE behaviours, neurodevelopmental and mental health problems, and impairment between ages 2 and 25 years.
Young adult DSE behaviour was strongly associated with early childhood deprivation, with a sixfold increase for those who spent more than 6 months in institutions. However, although DSE overlapped with autism spectrum disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms it was not, in itself, related to broader patterns of mental health problems or impairments in daily functioning in young adulthood.
DSE behaviour remained a prominent, but largely clinically benign, young adult feature of some adoptees who experienced early deprivation.
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