Show me the child at seven: the consequences of conduct problems in childhood for psychosocial functioning in adulthood

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2005 Aug;46(8):837-49. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2004.00387.x.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Conduct Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Crime / statistics & numerical data*
  • Demography
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology*
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Social Adjustment*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*