Poverty and behavior problems trajectories from 1.5 to 8 years of age: Is the gap widening between poor and non-poor children?
Poverty has been associated with high levels of behavior problems across childhood, yet patterns of associations over time remain understudied. This study aims: (a) to examine whether poverty predicts changes in behavior problems between 1.5 and 8 years of age; (b) to estimate potential selection bias for the observed associations.
We used the 1998–2006 waves of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development (N = 2120). Main outcomes were maternal ratings of hyperactivity, opposition and physical aggression from 1.5 to 8 years of age. Linear mixed-effects models were used to assess the longitudinal association between poverty and behavior problems. Models were re-estimated adjusting for wave nonresponse and using multiple imputation to account for attrition.
Poverty predicted higher levels of behavior problems between 1.5 and 8 years of age. Poverty predicted hyperactivity and opposition in a time dependent manner. Hyperactivity [Bpoverty*age = 0.052; CI 95 % (0.002; 0.101)] and opposition [Bpoverty*age = 0.049; CI 95 % (0.018; 0.079)] increased at a faster rate up to age 5 years, and then decreased at a slower rate for poor than non-poor children. Physical aggression decreased at a steady rate over time for all children [Bpoverty*age = −0.030; p = 0.064). Estimates remained similar when accounting for attrition.
Poverty predicted higher levels of behavior problems between 1.5 and 8 years of age. The difference between poor and non-poor children was stable over time for physical aggression, but increased with age for hyperactivity and opposition. Attrition among poor children did not compromise the validity of results.
KeywordsHyperactivity Opposition Physical aggression Poverty Attrition
We thank the children and families whose participation made this study possible. We acknowledge the contribution of the staff from the GRIP and the QIS for proving data collection and management.
This research acknowledges support from several funding agencies, including Ministry of Health and Social Services; the Canadian Institutes of Health Research; the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; the Quebec Fund for Research on Society and Culture; the Quebec Fund for Research on Nature and Technology; the Health Research Fund of Quebec; the Canada Research Chair Program.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
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