The structure, stability and correlations of the trait components of conduct disorder, attention deficit and anxiety/withdrawal reports

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 1993 Jul;34(5):749-66. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.1993.tb01069.x.


A general model for describing the structure of multiple trait measures reported by multiple sources and observed at multiple times is developed. This model is applied to data on conduct disorder/oppositional behaviour, attention deficit and anxiety/withdrawal reported by three sources (child, mother, teacher) at three ages (8, 10 and 12 years) for a birth cohort of 1265 New Zealand children. This model was shown to fit the observed data adequately. The major conclusions of the analysis were: (a) reports of child behaviour derived from a specific source at a given time were of limited validity as measures of the child's behavioural tendencies; (b) reports of child behaviour derived from the same source were subject to correlated errors of measurement; (c) there was evidence of strong correlations (r = .80-.85) between conduct disorder/oppositional behaviour and attention deficit and weaker correlations (r = .30) between externalising traits and anxiety/withdrawal; and (d) when due allowance was made for errors of measurement in the report data, conduct disorder/oppositional behaviour, attention deficit and anxiety/withdrawal emerged as having very high stability across measurement periods. The implications of the results for a range of issues relating to the validity of report data, the interpretation of inter-informant correlations, the correlation/comorbidity of child behaviour problems and the stability of behaviour are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / epidemiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological
  • Personality Assessment / standards*
  • Personality Assessment / statistics & numerical data
  • Personality Inventory / standards
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychometrics