Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 44, Issue 6, pp 1033–1043 | Cite as

Developmental Associations Between Conduct Problems and Expressive Language in Early Childhood: A Population-Based Study

  • Lisa-Christine GirardEmail author
  • Jean-Baptiste Pingault
  • Orla Doyle
  • Bruno Falissard
  • Richard E. Tremblay


Conduct problems have been associated with poor language development, however the direction of this association in early childhood remains unclear. This study examined the longitudinal directional associations between conduct problems and expressive language ability. Children enrolled in the UK Millennium Cohort Study (N = 14, 004; 50.3 % boys) were assessed at 3 and 5 years of age. Parent reports of conduct problems and standardised assessments of expressive language were analyzed using cross-lagged modeling. Conduct problems at 3 years was associated with poorer expressive language at 5 years and poorer expressive language at 3 years was associated with increased conduct problems by 5 years. The results support reciprocal associations, rather than a specific unidirectional path, which is commonly found with samples of older children. The emergence of problems in either domain can thus negatively impact upon the other over time, albeit the effects were modest. Studies examining the effects of intervention targeting conduct problems and language acquisition prior to school entry may be warranted in testing the efficacy of prevention programmes related to conduct problems and poor language ability early in childhood.


Conduct problems Expressive language Early childhood Millennium Cohort Study 



Permission to use the U.K. Millennium Cohort Study given by the ESRC Data Archive at Essex is gratefully acknowledged. The authors also thank the participants and their families for their long-term commitment to this study. We would also like to acknowledge Xuecheng Liu for his statistical expertise.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

There are no conflicts of interest for any author listed in the byline of this manuscript. Further, the authors report no financial relationships with commercial interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa-Christine Girard
    • 1
    • 2
    • 10
    Email author
  • Jean-Baptiste Pingault
    • 3
  • Orla Doyle
    • 4
  • Bruno Falissard
    • 2
    • 5
    • 6
  • Richard E. Tremblay
    • 1
    • 7
    • 8
    • 9
  1. 1.Research Unit on Children’s Psychosocial Maladjustment (GRIP)Université de MontrealMontréalCanada
  2. 2.Paris-Sud Innovation Group in Adolescent Mental HealthInstitut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM U669)Paris cedex 14France
  3. 3.Division of Psychology and Language SciencesUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  4. 4.School of Economics, Geary Institute for Public PolicyUniversity College DublinDublinIreland
  5. 5.Faculté de MédecineUniversité Paris-SudOrsayFrance
  6. 6.Faculté de MédecineUniversité Paris-DescartesParisFrance
  7. 7.Institute of Genetic, Neurobiological, and Social Foundations of Child DevelopmentTomsk State UniversityTomsk OblastRussian Federation
  8. 8.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MontrealMontrealCanada
  9. 9.School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Population SciencesUniversity College DublinDublinIreland
  10. 10.School of Public Health, Physiotherapy, and Population Sciences, Geary Institute for Public PolicyUniversity College DublinBelfieldIreland

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