Background: Children with conduct problems (CP) have been found to be heavy and costly medical service users in adulthood. However, there is little knowledge on how medical service use develops during childhood and adolescence among youth with and without childhood CP. Knowing whether differences in developmental trajectories of medical service use for specific types of problems (e.g., injuries) are predicted by childhood CP would help clinicians identify developmental periods during which they might intensify interventions for young people with CP in order to prevent later problems and associated increased service use.
Methods: Participants were drawn from an ongoing longitudinal study of boys and girls with and without childhood CP as rated by parents and teachers. Medical service use was assessed using administrative data from a public single payer health plan. Latent growth modeling was used to estimate the mean trajectory of four types of medical visits (psychiatric, injury-related, preventative, total visits) across time and evaluate the effect of CP and other covariates.
Results: Support the hypothesis that early CP predicts higher medical service use at nine years old, and that this difference persists in a chronic manner over time, even when controlling the effects of ADHD and family income. Girls had fewer medical visits for psychiatric reasons than boys at baseline, but this difference diminished over time.
Conclusions: Clinicians should be aware that childhood CP already predicts increased medical service use in elementary school. Issues specific to different contexts in which injuries might occur and sex differences are discussed.
Keywords: conduct disorder; conduct problems; health service; injuries; longitudinal; medical service use; psychiatric services; youth.
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