Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Behaviour problems in childhood and stressors in early adult life. I. A 20 year follow-up of London school children

L. A. Championa1 c1, G. Goodalla1 and M. Ruttera1

a1 MRC Child Psychiatry Unit, Institute of Psychiatry, London


The research presented in this paper examined the relationship between the presence of childhood behaviour problems and the rate of life events and difficulties in early adult life. Data are presented from a 20 year follow-up study of a sample of inner London school children first studied when they were aged 10. The key finding was that emotional or behavioural disturbance in childhood was associated with a marked increase in the rate of severely negative events and difficulties some two decades later. This increase was only obtained for stressors with severe negative impact of the type shown in previous investigations to be associated with the onset of psychiatric disorder. Additional results demonstrated that this main finding could not be accounted for by stressors that were a result of adult psychiatric disorder, by the respondent's own behaviour, or by continuing association with the family of origin. The need for a lifespan developmental approach to the well-established stressor-illness link is discussed.


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr L. A. Champion, Department of Psychiatry, University of Edinburgh, Kennedy Tower, Royal Edinburgh Hospital, Morningside Park, Edinburgh EH10 5HF.