Children and Parents as Informants of Emotional and Behavioural Problems Predicting Female and Male Adolescent Risk Behaviour: A Longitudinal Cross-Informant Study

Orginial Paper


This study examines whether health risk behaviour in adolescence can be predicted by self- and by parental reports of psychopathology (externalizing and internalizing symptoms) assessed two and four years earlier. A total sample of 366 fourth graders participated in a longitudinal study with measurements taken in grades 4, 6, and 8. In grades 4 and 6 the children completed the Youth Self Report (YSR) while their parents completed the Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL). In grade 8, the children reported their risk behaviour (smoking, sexual activity, dietary behaviour and suicidal tendencies). Results reveal that cross-informant correlations for both symptom-scales are low to medium and tend to increase slightly from grade 4 through 8. Children reported higher symptom-levels and changes over time than their parents. The predictability of risk behaviour in adolescence by reported psychopathology in grade 6 exceeds the predictability in grade 4. Results indicate that the predictability of risk behaviour by self-reports versus parental reports of psychopathology depends on the specific kind of health risk behaviour and the child’s gender.


Adolescence Cross-informants Problem behaviour Longitudinal design 


  1. Achenbach, T. M., McConaughy, S. H., & Howell, C. T. (1987). Child/Adolescent behavioural and emotional problems: Implications of cross-informant correlations for situational specificity. Psychological Bulletin, 101, 213–232.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Achenbach, T. M. (1991a). Manual for the Youth Self-Report and 1991 profile. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont Department of Psychiatry.Google Scholar
  3. Achenbach, T. M. (1991b). Manual for the Child Behavior Checklist/4-18 and 1991 profile. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont Department of Psychiatry.Google Scholar
  4. Achenbach, T. M. (2005). Assessment of adult psychopathology: Meta-Analyses and implications of cross-informant correlations. Psychological Bulletin, 131, 361–382.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Aldwin, C. M. (1994). Stress, coping, and development: An integrative perspective. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  6. Alsaker, F. D. (2000). The development of a depressive personality orientation: The role of the individual. In W. J. Perrig & A. Grob (Eds.), Control of human behaviour, mental processes and consciousness. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Barkmann, C., & Schult-Markwort, M. (2005). Emotional and behavioral problems of children and adolescents in Germany: An epidemiological screening. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 40, 357–366.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bayar, N., & Sanil, M. (2005). Brief report: Risk-taking behaviors in a non-western urban adolescent sample. Journal of Adolescence, 28, 671–676.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Becker, A., Hagenberg, N., Roessner, V., Woerner, W., & Rothenberger, A. (2004). Evaluation of the self-reported SDQ in a clinical setting: Do self-reports tell us more than ratings by adult informants? European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 13, 17–24.Google Scholar
  10. Berg-Nielsen, T. S., Vika, A., & Dahl, A. A. (2003). When adolescents disagree with their mothers: CBCL–YSR discepancies related to maternal depression and adolescent self-esteem. Child: Care, Health and Development, 29, 207–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Boles, S., Biglan, A., & Solkowski, K. (2006). Relationships among negative and positive behaviours in adolescence. Journal of Adolescence, 29, 33–52.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brame, B., Nagin, D. S., & Tremblay, R. E. (2001). Developmental trajectories of physical aggression from school entry to late adolescence. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 42, 503–512.Google Scholar
  13. Brener, N. D., Collins, J. L., Kann, L., Warren, C. W., & Williams, B. I. (1995). Reliability of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey Questionnaire. American Journal of Epidemiology, 141, 575–580.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Caspi, A., Bem, D. J., & Elder, G. H. (1989). Continuities and consequences of interaction styles across the life course. Journal of Personality, 57, 375–406.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioural sciences. Hillsdale, New York: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  16. Conwell, L. S., O’Callaghan, M. J., Andersen, M. J., Bor, W., Najman, J. M., & Williams, G. M. (2003). Early adolescent smoking and a web of personal and social disadvantage. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 39, 580–585.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Cullen, K. W., Koehly, L. M., Anderson, C., Baranowski, T., Prokhorov, A., Basen-Engquist, K., Wetter, D., & Hergenroeder, A. (1999). Gender differences in chronic disease risk behaviors through the transition out of high school. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 17, 1–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. De Los Reyes, A., & Kazdin, A. E. (2005). Informant discrepancies in the assessment of childhood psychopathology: A critical review, theoretical framework, and recommendations for further study. Psychological Bulletin, 131, 483–509.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Denham, S. A., Workman, E., Cole, P. M., Weissbrod, C., Kendziora, K. T., & Zahn-Waxler, C. (2000). Prediction of externalizing behavior problems from early to middle childhood: The role of parental socialization and emotion expression. Development and Psychopathology, 12, 23–45.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fennig, S., Gevab, K., Zalzman, G., Weitzman, A., Fenniga, S., & Aptera, A. (2005). Effect of gender on suicide attempters versus nonattempters in an adolescent inpatient unit. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 46, 90–97.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ferdinand, R. F., Van der Ende, J., & Verhulst, F. C. (2004). Parent–Adolescent disagreement regarding psychopathology in adolescents from the general population as a risk factor for adverse outcome. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 113, 198–206.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Harrington, R. (1993). Depressive disorder in childhood and adolescence. Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
  23. Hu, L. T., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cut-off criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling, 6, 1–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hurrelmann, K., & Richter, M. (2006). Risk behaviour in adolescence: The relationship between developmental and health problems. Journal of Public Health, 14, 20–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jessor, R., Donovan J. E., & Costa, F. M. (1991). Beyond Adolescence. Problem behaviour and young adult development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Jessor, R., Turbin, M. S., Costa, F. M. (1998). Protective factors in adolescent health behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psycology, 75(3), 788–800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kann, L., Warren, W., Collins, J. L., Ross, J., Collins, B., & Kolbe, L. J. (1993). Results from the national school-based 1991 Youth Risk-Behavior Survey and progress toward achieving related health objectives for the nation. Public Health Reports, 108, 47–67.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Keiley, M. K., Bates, J. E., Dodge, K. A., & Pettit, G. S. (2000). A cross-domain growth analysis: Externalizing and internalizing behaviors during 8 years of childhood. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 28, 161–179.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kinsman, S. B., Romer, D., Furstenberg, F. F., & Schwarz, D. F. (1998). Early sexual initiation: The role of peer norms. Pediatrics, 102, 1185–1192.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kristensen, H. (2001). Multiple informants’ report of emotional and behavioural problems in a nation-wide sample of selective mute children and controls. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 10, 135–142.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kulbock, P. A., & Cox, C. L. (2002). Dimensions of adolescent health behaviour. Journal of Adolescent Health, 31, 394–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Letourneau, E. J., Schoenwald, S. K., & Sheidow, A. J. (2004). Children and adolescents with sexual behavior problems. Child Maltreatment, 9, 49–61.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lillehoj, C., Trudeau, L., Spoth, R., & Madon, S. (2005). Externalizing behaviors as predictors of substance initiation trajectories among rural adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 37, 493–501.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Loeber, R., & Keenan, I. C. (1994). Interaction between conduct disorder and its comorbid conditions: Effects of age and gender. Clinical Psychology Review, 14, 497–523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McHale, J. P., & Neugebauer, A. (1998). Parental reports on the Child Adaptive Behavior Inventory predict 4-year-olds peer interactions on the preschool playground. Early Education and Development, 9, 307–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Meyer-Bahlburg, H. F. L., Dolezal, C., & Sandberg, D. E. (2000). The association of sexual behavior with externalizing behaviors in a community sample of prepubertal children. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 12, 61–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Moffit, T. E., Caspi, A., Rutter, M., & Silva, P. A. (2001). Sex differences in antisocial behaviour: Conduct disorder, delinquency and violence in the Dunedin Longitudinal Study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Mundahl Engels, J., & Diehr, P. (2003). Imputation of missing longitudinal data: A comparision of methods. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 56, 968–976.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Nagin, D. S., Farrington, D. P., & Moffit, T. E. (1995). Life-course trajectories of different types of offenders. Criminology, 33, 111–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. O’Donnel, L., O’Donnel, C. R., & Stueve, A. (2001). Early sexual initiation and subsequent sex-related risks among urban minority youth: The reach for health study. Family Planning Perspectives, 33, 268–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Renk, K., & Phares, V. (2004). Cross-informant ratings of social competence in children and adolescents. Clinical Psychology Review, 24, 239–254.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Sawyer, M. G., Baghurst, P., & Mathias, J. (1992). Differences between informants’ reports describing emotional and behavioural problems in community and clinic-referred children: A research note. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 33, 441–449.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Seiffge Krenke, I. (1995). Stress, coping, and relationships in adolescence. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.Google Scholar
  44. Seiffge-Krenke, I., & Kollmar, F. (1998). Discrepancies between mothers’ and fathers’ persceptions of sons’ and daughters’ problem behaviour: A longitudinal analysis of parent–adolescent agreement on internalising and externalising problem behaviour. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 39, 687–697.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Silberreisen, R. K., & Noack, P. (1988). On the constructive role of problem behaviour in adolescence. In N. Bolger, A. Caspi, G. Downey, & M. Moorehouse (Eds.), Persons in context: Developmental processes, New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Steiger, J. H. (1980). Tests for comparing elements of a correlation matrix. Psychological Bulltein, 87, 245–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Tomeo, C. A., Field, A. E., Berkey, C. S., Colditz, G. A., & Frazier, A. L. (1999). Weight concerns, weight control behaviors and smoking initiation. Pediatrics, 104, 918–924.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. VanderValk, I., Spruijt, E., DeGoede, M., Maas, C., & Meeus, W. (2005). Family structure and problem behavior of adolescents and young adults: A growth-curve study. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 6, 533–546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Verhulst, F.C., & VanderEnde, J. (1992). Agreement between parents’ reports and adolescents’ self-reports of problem behavior. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 33, 1011–1023.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Waldron, I. (1997). Changing gender roles and gender differences in health behavior. In D. S. Gochman (Ed.), Handbook of health behaviour research 1: Personal and social determinants. New York, NY: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  51. Yeh, M., & Weisz, J. R. (2001). Why are we here at the clinic? Parent–child (dis)agreement on referral problems at outpatient treatment entry. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 69, 1018–1025.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of BielefeldBielefeldGermany

Personalised recommendations