Development and Psychopathology

Regular Articles

Modeling the interplay of multilevel risk factors for future academic and behavior problems: A person-centered approach

Stephanie T. Lanzaa1 c1, Brittany L. Rhoadesa1, Robert L. Nixa1, Mark T. Greenberga1 and The Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group

a1 Pennsylvania State University


This study identified profiles of 13 risk factors across child, family, school, and neighborhood domains in a diverse sample of children in kindergarten from four US locations (n = 750; 45% minority). It then examined the relation of those early risk profiles to externalizing problems, school failure, and low academic achievement in Grade 5. A person-centered approach, latent class analysis, revealed four unique risk profiles, which varied considerably across urban African American, urban White, and rural White children. Profiles characterized by several risks that cut across multiple domains conferred the highest risk for negative outcomes. Compared to a variable-centered approach, such as a cumulative risk index, these findings provide a more nuanced understanding of the early precursors to negative outcomes. For example, results suggested that urban children in single-parent homes that have few other risk factors (i.e., show at least average parenting warmth and consistency and report relatively low stress and high social support) are at quite low risk for externalizing problems, but at relatively high risk for poor grades and low academic achievement. These findings provide important information for refining and targeting preventive interventions to groups of children who share particular constellations of risk factors.


This work was supported by National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Grants R18 MH48043, R18 MH50951, R18 MH50952, and R18 MH50953. The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) also provided support for Fast Track through a memorandum of agreement with the NIMH. This work was partially supported by Department of Education Grant S184U30002 and NIMH Grants K05MH00797 and K05MH01027. This study was supported by NIDA Grants R03DA23032, P50DA10075, and T32DA17629. We thank members of the Prevention and Methodology Training Program at Penn State for reviewing an earlier version of this manuscript. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. Members of the Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group in alphabetical order are Karen L. Bierman, Pennsylvania State University; John D. Coie, Duke University; Kenneth A. Dodge, Duke University; Mark T. Greenberg, Pennsylvania State University; John E. Lochman, University of Alabama; Robert J. McMahon, University of Washington; and Ellen E. Pinderhughes, Tufts University.