The Quintessence of Child Conduct Problems: Identifying Central Behaviors through Network Analysis

Abstract

Child conduct problems are generally treated as a latent construct or as an additive index, where indicators are considered equally reflective indicators, in line with the “common cause hypothesis”. The current study presents a third alternative, where conduct problems constitute behaviors that associate and interact, in terms of a multivariate network structure. The aims of the study were to investigate the network structure of conduct problems and reveal strongly connected and central behaviors. Child gender and age were included into the analyses to uncover how these relate to the specific behaviors. The sample comprised of parent-reported data of 551 Norwegian children (age 3–12) with moderate to high levels of conduct problems, who reported intensity of 22 behaviors using the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory. The research questions were examined by estimating a correlational and partial correlational LASSO network of conduct problems. Results showed that behaviors in general were positively connected. The majority of behaviors clustered into two distinct domains, reflecting inattention and oppositional defiant behavior. Furthermore, results showed that behaviors showed differential centrality, i.e., not all behaviors were equally important to the conceptualization of child conduct problems. Implications of the results for assessment and intervention are discussed.

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Acknowledgments

I am grateful to the following people who worked extensively toward the coordination of the study, data collection, and data management: John Kjøbli, Trine Staer, Terje Christiansen, Roar Solholm, and Bjørn Arild Kristiansen.

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Correspondence to Silje Hukkelberg.

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S. Hukkelberg declare no conflicts of interest and confirm that all the research meets ethical guidelines, including adherence to the legal requirements of the study country.

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The current study was conducted with the informed consent of all participants. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of a medical ethics committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Hukkelberg, S. The Quintessence of Child Conduct Problems: Identifying Central Behaviors through Network Analysis. J Psychopathol Behav Assess 41, 175–184 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10862-018-9713-3

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Keywords

  • Conduct problems
  • Children
  • Network analysis