Precursors, consequences and implications for stability and change in pre-adolescent antisocial behaviors

Prev Sci. 2003 Jun;4(2):123-36. doi: 10.1023/a:1022978316584.


Although much of the evidence stresses the stability of dysfunctional behavior throughout the life cycle, other evidence suggests that stability of antisocial behavior is a matter of degree. In this work we determine the degree of stability of such behavior in preadolescence and how this is influenced by age, gender, social structures, and family processes. Also, we explore whether change in the level of antisocial behavior impacts upon other important developmental regimes such as health and educational performance. We use a large, 2 wave, nationally representative sample of preadolescent children, and focus on children 4-9 years of age at wave 1 (n=6,846). We employ a cluster analysis across a series of behavioral variables to determine levels of antisocial behavior and then examine the stability of antisocial behavior over time and identify the precursors and consequences associated with movement into and out of these behavioral clusters. Antisocial behavior is more stable in boys and older children. Structural factors--age of the mother, number of children in the household, and having a single parent--along with family factors--hostile parenting and maternal depression--raise the likelihood of increases in and lower the likelihood of decreases in antisocial behavior, although there are notable differences by gender of the child and initial level of antisocial behavior. Consequences of change in antisocial behavior include scholastic performance, high levels of school mobility, school-parent contacts, and health perceptions. The implications of these findings for prevention and intervention programs are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / epidemiology
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / etiology
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Family Relations
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Personality Development*
  • Psychology, Child
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Behavior Disorders / epidemiology
  • Social Behavior Disorders / etiology
  • Social Behavior Disorders / psychology*
  • Social Environment*
  • Social Perception