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This study aimed to identify perinatal and early-life factors associated with trajectories of psychopathic traits across childhood.
Participants were 1631 children (51.5% girls) from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development. A wide range of perinatal and early-life factors were assessed from pregnancy to age 2.5 years using medical files and mothers’ reports. Psychopathic traits were assessed via teachers’ reports at ages 6, 7, 8, 10, and 12 years. Latent class growth analyses and multinomial logistic regressions controlling for child sex were conducted. Two-way interaction effects between perinatal/early-life factors and child sex were explored.
Four trajectories of psychopathic traits were identified: High-stable (4.48%), Increasing (8.77%), Decreasing (11.46%), and Low-stable (75.29%). A few perinatal factors and most child-level and family-level early-life factors significantly increased the odds of following the High-stable v. the Low-stable trajectory. Higher levels of psychotropic exposures during pregnancy, socioeconomic adversity, child's physical aggression, child's opposition, mother's depressive symptoms, and hostile parenting increased the likelihood of following the Increasing instead of the Low-stable trajectory. Higher socioeconomic adversity, mother's depressive symptoms, and inconsistent parenting were associated with membership to the High-stable instead of the Decreasing trajectory. Most associations were not moderated by child sex.
These results shed light on the perinatal and early-life factors that are associated with specific pathways of psychopathic traits during childhood and suggest that different factors could be targeted to prevent the exacerbation (v. low and stable levels) or the stability at high levels (v. attenuation) of these traits.
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