Background: This paper seeks to extend research into the adult sequelae of childhood conduct problems by investigating the associations between conduct problems in middle childhood and psychosocial outcomes in adulthood.
Method: Data were gathered during the course of a 25-year longitudinal study of a birth cohort of New Zealand young people. Information was collected on: a) parent and teacher reports of child conduct problems at ages 7, 8 and 9 years; b) measures of crime, substance use, mental health, sexual/partner relationships, education/employment; c) confounding factors, including childhood, family and educational characteristics.
Results: There were statistically significant associations between childhood conduct problems from 7-9 years and risks of adverse outcomes across all domains of functioning. After control for confounding factors the associations between conduct problems and education/employment outcomes became statistically non-significant. Associations persisted for other outcomes (crime, substance dependence, mental health and sexual/partner relationships). Children in the most disturbed 5% of the cohort had rates of these outcomes that were between 1.5 and 19 times higher than rates for the least disturbed 50% of the cohort. The associations between conduct problems and adult outcomes were similar for males and females.
Conclusions: Childhood conduct problems were associated with a wide range of adverse psychosocial outcomes (crime, substance use, mental health, sexual/partner relationships) even after control for confounding factors. The results reinforce the need for greater investment into interventions to address these problems.