Continuity of behavioral and emotional problems from pre-school years to pre-adolescence in a developing country

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2008 May;49(5):499-507. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2007.01865.x. Epub 2008 Mar 10.


Background: All previous longitudinal community studies assessing the continuity of child behavioral/emotional problems were conducted in developed countries.

Method: Six hundred and one children randomly selected from a Brazilian birth cohort were evaluated for behavioral/emotional problems through mother interview at 4 and 12 years with the same standard procedure - Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL).

Results: CBCL Total Problem score presented a medium stability (r = .42) with externalizing problems showing higher stability and more homotypic continuity than internalizing problems. Of the children presenting deviant scores at the age of 4, only 31% remained deviant at the age of 12 (p < .001). A deviant CBCL Total Problem score at 12 years old was predicted by Rule-Breaking Behavior [OR = 7.46, 95% CI 2.76-20.19] and Social Problems [OR = 3.56, 95% CI 1.36-9.30] scores at 4 years of age. Either Rule-Breaking or Aggressive Behavior - externalizing syndromes - were part of the predictors for the three broad-band CBCL scores and six out of the eight CBCL syndromes.

Conclusions: Behavioral/emotional problems in preschool children persist moderately up to pre-adolescence in a community sample. Externalizing problems at the age of 4 comprise the developmental history of most behavioral/emotional problems at pre-adolescence. Our findings concur with findings from developed countries and are quite similar for continuity, stability and predictability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Conduct Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Developing Countries / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mood Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence