Aim: To examine whether regulatory problems in infancy predict later hyperkinetic symptoms in childhood and pre-adolescence.
Methods: In a prospective longitudinal study of 319 children at risk of later developmental problems and psychopathology, hyperkinetic behaviour problems were assessed at the ages of 2, 4.5, 8 and 11 y by means of a standardized parent interview. Infant regulatory problems at the age of 3 mo were determined from multiple sources of information. An observational procedure was used to assess the quality of mother-infant interaction.
Results: At the age of 3 mo, 17% of the infants (n = 55; 27 boys, 28 girls) suffered from multiple regulatory problems. Compared to a control group (n = 264), these children presented more hyperkinetic symptoms throughout childhood. Negativity in the mother-infant interaction and early family adversity each contributed to later hyperkinetic symptoms. When controlling for family adversity, the association between infant multiple regulatory problems and later hyperkinetic problems was rendered insignificant.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that multiple regulatory problems may not be a key variable for later hyperkinetic problems. The impact of early family adversity factors clearly outweighed that of infant psychopathology on later behaviour disorder.