Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Predicting young adult social functioning from developmental trajectories of externalizing behaviour

I. L. Bongersa1, H. M. Koota2, J. van der Endea1 c1 and F. C. Verhulsta1

a1 Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Erasmus MC–Sophia Children's Hospital, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

a2 Department of Developmental Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Abstract

Background The long-term consequences of child and adolescent externalizing problems often involve a wide spectrum of social maladaptation in adult life. The purpose of this study was to describe the predictive link of child and adolescent externalizing developmental trajectories to social functioning in adulthood.

Method Social functioning was predicted from developmental trajectories of parent-reported aggression, opposition, property violations and status violations that were defined in a longitudinal multiple birth cohort study of 2076 males and females aged 4–18 years. Social functioning was assessed using self-reports by young adults aged 18–30 years. Linear and logistic regression analyses were used to describe the extent to which developmental trajectories are prospectively related to social functioning.

Results Children with high-level trajectories of opposition and status violations reported more impaired social functioning as young adults than children with high-level trajectories of aggression and property violations. Young adults who showed onset of problems in adolescence reported overall less impaired social functioning than individuals with high-level externalizing problems starting in childhood. Overall, males reported more impaired social functioning in adulthood than females. However, females with persistent high-level externalizing behaviour reported more impairment in relationships than males with persistent high-level externalizing behaviour.

Conclusion The long-term consequences of high levels of opposition and status violations in childhood to serious social problems during adulthood are much stronger than for individuals who show only high levels of aggressive antisocial behaviours.

(Received August 24 2005)

(Revised October 12 2007)

(Accepted October 30 2007)

(Online publication November 30 2007)

Correspondence

c1 Address for correspondence: J. van der Ende, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Erasmus MC–Sophia Children's Hospital, Dr Molewaterplein 60, 3015 GJ Rotterdam, The Netherlands. (Email: jan.vanderende@erasmusmc.nl)

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