Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 735–747 | Cite as

Differential Risk for Late Adolescent Conduct Problems and Mood Dysregulation Among Children with Early Externalizing Behavior Problems

  • Yuko OkadoEmail author
  • Karen L. Bierman


To investigate the differential emergence of antisocial behaviors and mood dysregulation among children with externalizing problems, the present study prospectively followed 317 high-risk children with early externalizing problems from school entry (ages 5–7) to late adolescence (ages 17–19). Latent class analysis conducted on their conduct and mood symptoms in late adolescence revealed three distinct patterns of symptoms, characterized by: 1) criminal offenses, conduct disorder symptoms, and elevated anger (“conduct problems”), 2) elevated anger, dysphoric mood, and suicidal ideation (“mood dysregulation”), and 3) low levels of severe conduct and mood symptoms. A diathesis-stress model predicting the first two outcomes was tested. Elevated overt aggression at school entry uniquely predicted conduct problems in late adolescence, whereas elevated emotion dysregulation at school entry uniquely predicted mood dysregulation in late adolescence. Experiences of low parental warmth and peer rejection in middle childhood moderated the link between early emotion dysregulation and later mood dysregulation but did not moderate the link between early overt aggression and later conduct problems. Thus, among children with early externalizing behavior problems, increased risk for later antisocial behavior or mood dysfunction may be identifiable in early childhood based on levels of overt aggression and emotion dysregulation. For children with early emotion dysregulation, however, increased risk for mood dysregulation characterized by anger, dysphoric mood, and suicidality – possibly indicative of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder – emerges only in the presence of low parental warmth and/or peer rejection during middle childhood.


Externalizing Conduct problems Peer rejection Parental warmth Mood 



We thank the Fast Track project staff and participants for making this study possible, and Robert Nix, Kenneth N. Levy, and Sandra T. Azar for their helpful comments on this manuscript. This research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) grants R18 MH48043, R18 MH50951, R18 MH50952, and R18 MH50953. The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention and the National Institute on Drug Abuse also provided support for Fast Track through a memorandum of agreement with the NIMH. This research was also supported in part by Department of Education grant S184U30002, NIMH grants K05MH00797 and K05MH01027, and NIDA grants DA16903, DA017589, and DA015226.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologySt. Jude Children’s Research HospitalMemphisUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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