European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 25, Issue 5, pp 493–500 | Cite as

Unpacking the associations between heterogeneous externalising symptom development and academic attainment in middle childhood

  • Praveetha PatalayEmail author
  • Elian Fink
  • Peter Fonagy
  • Jessica Deighton
Original Contribution


This study explores children’s externalising symptom development pathways between 8 and 11 years of age (three time points across 2 years) and examines their sociodemographic correlates and associations with change in academic attainment. Externalising symptoms were assessed for 5485 children across three consecutive years (M age = 8.7 years, SD = 0.30 at time 1). National standardised test scores served as an index of academic attainment. Using latent class growth analysis, six distinct trajectories of externalising symptom development were identified. Children who showed increasing externalising symptomatology across the three time points were more likely to be male or have special educational needs. These derived trajectories differentially predicted children’s subsequent academic attainment (controlling for earlier attainment). Children with increasing externalising symptomatology were significantly more likely to demonstrate negative change in academic achievement compared with children with consistently low externalising problems. The study helps to clarify the longitudinal association between externalising symptom development and academic attainment, and highlights the importance of early intervention for children with increasing externalising symptoms across middle childhood.


Behaviour Conduct Children Externalising Attainment Education 



We would like to thank the English Department for Children, Schools and Families, now the Department for Education, for funding the wider study from which these data are drawn. We would also like to thank the Policy Research Unit in the Health of Children, Young People and Families, which is funded by the Department of Health Policy Research Programme for supporting this work. The views expressed are not necessarily those of either Department. We would like to acknowledge Dr. Eren Demir and Dr. Anke Görzig for their input. We are grateful to all the participating staff and students, and also thank other members and advisors of the research group who were involved in the wider project.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Praveetha Patalay
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Elian Fink
    • 1
  • Peter Fonagy
    • 2
  • Jessica Deighton
    • 1
  1. 1.Evidence Based Practice UnitUniversity College London and the Anna Freud CentreLondonUK
  2. 2.Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health PsychologyUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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