Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 45, Issue 5, pp 959–970 | Cite as

Longitudinal Associations between Depression and Aggression in Children and Adolescents



Due to the longstanding and detrimental effects of engaging in aggressive behaviour and of experiencing symptoms of internalizing problems in children and adolescents, there is an increasing interest in identifying the temporal sequence between these 2 problems with previous research yielding inconsistent findings. Therefore, the longitudinal links between relational aggression, physical aggression, and depression were examined across 7 years in a sample of 643 children (54 % girls) aged 10 at Time 1. Three models were compared— (1) the failure model, in which aggression predicted depression, (2) the acting out model, in which depression predicted aggression, and (3) a reciprocal model, in which both aggression and depression shared a reciprocal relation over time. Cross-lagged path analyses using structural equation modeling supported the failure model (i.e., engaging in relational and physical aggression predicts subsequent depressive symptoms). Findings were similar for boys and girls. These findings add to the literature suggesting that externalizing problems precede internalizing problems.


Depression Aggression Failure model Acting out model Reciprocal model 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

This study was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (grant # 833–2004-1019), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (grant # 201009MOP-232632-CHI-CECA-136591), and the Canada Research Chairs program (grant # 201009MOP-232632-CHI-CECA-136591) awarded to the 2nd author.

Conflict of Interest

Christine Blain-Arcaro declares that she has no conflict of interest. Tracy Vaillancourt declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Counselling Psychology, Faculty of EducationUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  2. 2.School of Psychology, Faculty of Social SciencesUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada

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