Childhood temperamental, emotional, and behavioral characteristics associated with mood and anxiety disorders in adolescence: A prospective study

Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2023 Feb;147(2):217-228. doi: 10.1111/acps.13522. Epub 2022 Nov 25.


Background: Mood and anxiety disorders account for a large share of the global burden of disability. Some studies suggest that early signs may emerge already in childhood. However, there is a lack of well-powered, prospective studies investigating how and when childhood mental traits and trajectories relate to adolescent mood and anxiety disorders.

Methods: We here examine cross-sectional and longitudinal association between maternally reported temperamental traits, emotional and behavioral problems in childhood (0.5-8 years) and clinical diagnosis of mood or anxiety ("emotional") disorders in adolescence (10-18 years), using the prospective Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) of 110,367 children.

Results: Logistic regression analyses showed consistent and increasing associations between childhood negative emotionality, behavioral and emotional problems and adolescent diagnosis of emotional disorders, present from 6 months of age (negative emotionality). Latent profile analysis incorporating latent growth models identified five developmental profiles of emotional and behavioral problems. A profile of early increasing behavioral and emotional problems with combined symptoms at 8 years (1.3% of sample) was the profile most strongly associated with emotional disorders in adolescence (OR vs. reference: 5.00, 95% CI: 3.70-6.30).

Conclusions: We found a consistent and increasing association between negative emotionality, behavioral and emotional problems in early to middle childhood and mood and anxiety disorders in adolescence. A developmental profile coherent with early and increasing disruptive mood dysregulation across childhood was the profile strongest associated with adolescent emotional disorders. Our results highlight the importance of early emotional dysregulation and childhood as a formative period in the development of adolescent mood and anxiety disorders, supporting potential for prevention and early intervention initiatives.

Keywords: MoBa; anxiety disorders; depressive disorders; development; irritability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety
  • Anxiety Disorders* / psychology
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mood Disorders / epidemiology
  • Prospective Studies