Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 24, Issue 5, pp 533–553

Factors associated with continuity and changes in disruptive behavior patterns between childhood and adolescence

  • David M. Fergusson
  • Michael T. Lynskey
  • L. John Horwood


The relationships between disruptive behaviors in middle childhood (7 to 9 years) and conduct disorder in adolescence (14 to 16 years) were studied in a birth cohort of New Zealand children. Latent class analysis suggested strong behavioral continuity, with children showing early disruptive behaviors having odds of adolescent conduct disorder that were over 16 times higher than children who did not display early disruptive behavior. Nonetheless, in the region of 12% of children showed a discontinuous history, with 5% of children showing an early onset of conduct problems and later remission while 7% showed later onset conduct problems. Children showing discontinuous histories of behavior problems came from backgrounds in which levels of risk were intermediate between those of children who showed a persistent pattern of conduct problems and those who were consistently nonproblem children. Peer factors played an influential role in behavioral change in adolescence, with individuals showing late onset of conduct problems having high rates of affiliation with delinquent peers but those showing remission of problem behaviors in adolescence having relatively low rates of such affiliations.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. American Psychiatric Association (1987).Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (3rd ed., rev). Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, J. C., Williams, S., McGee, R., & Silva, P. A. (1987). DSM-III disorders in preadolescent children: Prevalence in a large sample from the general population.Archives of General Psychiatry, 44, 69–76.Google Scholar
  3. Bird, H. R., Canino, G., Rubio-Stipec, M., Gould, M. S., Ribera, J., Sesman, M., Woodbury, M., Huertas-Goldman, S., Pagan, A., Sanchez-Lacay, A., & Moscoso, M. (1988). Estimates of the prevalence of childhood maladjustment in a community survey in Puerto Rico: The use of combined measures.Archives of General Psychiatry, 45, 1120–1126.Google Scholar
  4. Conners, C. K. (1969). A teacher rating scale for use in drug studies with children.American Journal of Psychiatry, 126, 884–888.Google Scholar
  5. Conners, C. K. (1970). Symptom patterns in hyperkinetic, neurotic and normal children.Child Development, 41, 667–682.Google Scholar
  6. Coopersmith, S. (1981).SEI—Self-Esteem Inventories. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
  7. Costello, A., Edelbrock, C., Kalas, R., Kessler, M., & Klaric, S. A. (1982).Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children (DISC). Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Mental Health.Google Scholar
  8. Cronbach, L. J. (1951). Coefficient alpha and the internal structure of tests.Psychometrika, 16, 297–334.Google Scholar
  9. Elley, W. B., & Reid, N. A. (1969).Progressive Achievement Tests: Teacher manual: Reading Comprehension, Reading Vocabulary. Wellington, New Zealand: NZCER.Google Scholar
  10. Farrington, D. P., Loeber, R., Elliott, D. S., Hawkins, J. D., Kandel, D. B., Klein, M. W., McCord, J., Rowe, D. C., & Tremblay, R. E. (1990). Advancing knowledge about the onset of delinquency and crime. In B. B. Lahey & A. E. Kazdin (Eds.).Advances in clinical child psychology, (Vol. 13, pp. 383–442). New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  11. Farrington, D. P., Loeber, R., & Van Kammen, W. B. (1990). Long-term criminal outcomes of hyperactivity-impulsivity-attention deficit and conduct problems in childhood. In L. N. Robins & M. Rutter (Eds.).Straight and devious pathways from childhood to adulthood. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Fergusson, D. M., & Horwood, L. J. (1993). The structure, stability and correlations of the trait components of conduct disorder, attention deficit and anxiety/withdrawal reports.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 34, 749–766.Google Scholar
  13. Fergusson, D. M., & Horwood, L. J. (1996). The role of adolescent peer affiliations in the continuity between childhood behavioral adjustment and juvenile offending.Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 24, 205–221.Google Scholar
  14. Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, L. J., & Lawton, J. M. (1990). Vulnerability to childhood problems and family social background.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 31, 1145–1160.Google Scholar
  15. Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, L. J., & Lloyd, M. (1991). Confirmatory factor models of attention deficit and conduct disorder.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 32, 257–274.Google Scholar
  16. Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, L. J., & Lynskey, M. T. (1993). The prevalence and comorbidity of DSM-III-R diagnoses in a birth cohort of 15 year olds.Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 32, 1127–1134.Google Scholar
  17. Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, L. J., & Lynskey, M. T. (1994a). The comorbidities of adolescent problem behaviors: A latent class model.Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 22, 339–354.Google Scholar
  18. Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, L. J., & Lynskey, M. T. (1994b). The structure of DSM-III-R criteria for disruptive childhood behaviors.Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 33, 1145–1155.Google Scholar
  19. Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, L. J., & Lynskey, M. T. (1994c). The childhoods of multiple problem adolescents: A 15 year longitudinal study.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 35, 1123–1140.Google Scholar
  20. Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, L. J., & Lynskey, M. T. (1995). The stability of disruptive childhood behaviors.Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 23 379–396.Google Scholar
  21. Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, L. J., Shannon, F. T., & Lawton, J. M. (1989). The Christchurch Child Development Study: A review of epidemiological findings.Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 3, 278–301.Google Scholar
  22. Gilmore, A., Croft, C., & Reid, N. (1981).Burt Word Reading Test: New Zealand revision. Teachers manual. Wellington, New Zealand: NZCER.Google Scholar
  23. Kashani, J. H., Beck, N. C., Hoeper, E. W., Fallahi, C., Corcoran, C. M., McAllister, J. A., Rosenberg, T. K., & Reid, J. C. (1987). Psychiatric disorders in a community sample of adolescents.American Journal of Psychiatry, 144, 584–589.Google Scholar
  24. Loeber, R. (1988). Natural histories of conduct problems, delinquency and associated substance use. In B. B. Lahey & A. E. Kazdin (Eds.),Advances in clinical child psychology (Vol. 11, pp. 73–124). New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  25. Loeber, R. (1990). Development and risk factors of juvenile antisocial behavior and delinquencyClinical Psychology Review, 10, 1–41.Google Scholar
  26. Loeber, R. (1991). Antisocial behavior: more enduring than changeable?Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 30, 383–397.Google Scholar
  27. McGee, R., Feehan, M., Williams, S., Partridge, F., Silva, P. A., & Kelly, J. (1990). DSM-III disorders in a large sample of adolescents.Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 29, 611–619.Google Scholar
  28. Moffitt, T. E. (1993). Adolescence—limited and life-course-persistent antisocial behavior: A developmental taxonomy.Psychological Review, 100, 674–701.Google Scholar
  29. Moffitt, T. E., & Silva, P. A. (1988). Self-reported delinquency: Results from an instrument for New Zealand.Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 21, 227–240.Google Scholar
  30. Olweus, D. (1979). Stability of aggressive reaction patterns in males: A review.Psychological Bulletin, 86, 852–857Google Scholar
  31. Patterson, G. R. (1993). Orderly change in a stable world: The antisocial trait as a chimera.Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 61, 911–919.Google Scholar
  32. Patterson, G. R. (1994 November).Differentiating early-from-late-onset delinquency.. Paper presented at the American Society of Criminology Conference, Miami.Google Scholar
  33. Patterson, G. R., DeBaryshe, B. D., & Ramsey, E. (1989). A developmental perspective on antisocial behavior.American Psychologist, 44, 329–335.Google Scholar
  34. Quay, H. C., & Peterson, D. R. (1987).Manual for the Revised Behavior Problem Checklist. Miami: Authors.Google Scholar
  35. Quinton, D., Pickles, A., Maughan, B., & Rutter, M. (1993). Partners, peers and pathways: Assortative pairing and continuities in conduct disorder.Development and Psychopathology, 5, 763–783.Google Scholar
  36. Rutter, M., & Giller, H. (1983).Juvenile delinquency: trends and perspectives. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin.Google Scholar
  37. Rutter, M., Tizard, J., & Whitmore, K. (1970).Education, health and behavior. London: Longmans.Google Scholar
  38. Wechsler, D. (1974).Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children—Revised. New York: The Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
  39. Zoccolillo, M., Pickles, A., Quinton, D., & Rutter, M. (1992). The outcome of childhood conduct disorder: Implications for defining adult personality disorder and conduct disorder.Psychological Medicine, 22, 971–986.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • David M. Fergusson
    • 1
  • Michael T. Lynskey
    • 1
  • L. John Horwood
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychological MedicineChristchurch School of MedicineChristchurchNew Zealand
  2. 2.Christchurch Health and Development StudyChristchurch School of MedicineChristchurchNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations