The conduct problems of young children have become a focus of recent research within child clinical psychology, perhaps because of their potential to predict future maladjustment. Although the relationship between early conduct and later adjustment is complex and mediated by a variety of developmental and situational variables (Loeber, 1982), the notion that chronic problem behavior in early childhood portends future problem behavior, emotional instability, and delinquency in adolescence and adulthood is supported by several longitudinal studies (e.g., Olweus, 1979; Robins, 1966). The term conduct problem has not been defined with great precision for young children but is generally used to summarize a collection of antisocial behaviors including aggressiveness, chronic noncompliance, intense and immature emotional responses to limits (e.g., tantrums) and early forms of delinquency (e.g., stealing and lying). Although the summary labels for these behaviors vary considerably among researchers and clinicians (see Quay, 1979; Robinson, 1985), all refer to a behavioral pattern of strong child opposition to the rules of family, school, and/or community, a pattern that is often first observed clinically during the pre school years within parent-child dyads.
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