A conduct disorder is characterized by repetitive and persistent patterns of behavior where
the basic rights of others and rules are violated.
This study investigates characteristics of children and their surroundings (environments)
that place them at risk for the development of disruptive behavior disorders and associated
disorders of anxiety and mood. Children ages 4 - 5 with moderate (subclinical) and severe
(clinical) rates of misconduct during the preschool period are compared to low risk
children. Children and their families were recruited from 1989-1991 and are being studied
at five specific times:
1. Preschool (4 - 5 years)
2. Early childhood (6 - 7 years)
3. Middle childhood (9 - 10 years)
4. Early adolescence (13 - 14 years)
5. Mid-adolescence (15 - 16 years)
Researchers will look closely at biological, intellectual, emotional, and behavioral factors
that are thought to protect against and/or increase the risk of developing a conduct
problem. These factors have been studied in older children and are shown to be associated
with disruptive behavior disorders.
The goals of this research study are;
1. Create a database showing the characteristics of the development of disruptive behavior
2. Identify the key risk and protective factors that contribute to the stability or change
in behavior problems over time.
3. Identify the ways that children interact socially and relate them to the possibility of
developing a problem of behavior.
4. Identify how experiences and the emotions associated with experiences may play a role
in the development of related psychiatric conditions, like depression and anxiety.
5. Establish measures of the different components of negative emotions associated with
disruptive/antisocial, anxiety, and mood disorders.
This study investigates characteristics of children and their environments that place them
at risk for the development of disruptive behavior disorders and co-morbid internalizing
problems (anxiety and mood disorders). Children ages 4-5 with moderate (subclinical) and
high (clinical) rates of misconduct during the preschool period are compared with low risk
children. Children and their families are studied again at four later time points: (a)
early childhood (6-7 yrs.), (b) middle childhood (9-10 yrs.), (c) early adolescence (13-14
yrs.), and (d) mid-adolescence (15-16 yrs.). Assessments of children include dimensions of
biological, cognitive, affective, emotional and behavioral functioning, that have been
identified in research with older children as putative risk and protective factors in the
development of conduct problems. Socialization experiences within and outside the family,
also hypothesized to influence developmental trajectories are examined. Currently, Time 4
assessments are being conducted, with three-quarters of the research subjects tested.
Behavior problems show significant stability across the first three time periods. However,
some children improve over time, changes that result, in part, from more optimal
environmental conditions. Different patterns of emotion dysregulation, ANS, and HPA
activity in antisocial preschool children predict different types of externalizing problems
at later time points. Behavior problems and their correlates differ for young disruptive
boys and girls: Oppositional, aggressive girls are more likely to have co-morbid
internalizing problems, and emotion regulation patterns that may decrease risk for continued
antisocial behavior, but increase risk for depression and anxiety later in development.
Preschool age children with conduct problems and normal preschool age children used for