A developmental cascade model linking competence and symptoms was tested in a study of a normative, urban school sample of 205 children (initially 8 to 12 years old). Internalizing and externalizing symptoms and academic competence were assessed by multiple methods at the study outset and after 7, 10, and 20 years. A series of nested cascade models was tested through structural equation modeling. The final model indicated 2 hypothesized cascade effects: Externalizing problems evident in childhood appeared to undermine academic competence by adolescence, which subsequently showed a negative effect on internalizing problems in young adulthood. A significant exploratory effect was consistent with internalizing symptoms containing or lowering the net risk for externalizing problems under some conditions. These 3 cascade effects did not differ by gender and were not attributable to effects of IQ, parenting quality, or socioeconomic differences. Implications are discussed for developmental models of cascades, progressions, and preventive interventions.
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