To investigate the differential emergence of antisocial behaviors and mood dysregulation among children with externalizing problems, the present study prospectively followed 317 high-risk children with early externalizing problems from school entry (ages 5–7) to late adolescence (ages 17–19). Latent class analysis conducted on their conduct and mood symptoms in late adolescence revealed three distinct patterns of symptoms, characterized by: 1) criminal offenses, conduct disorder symptoms, and elevated anger (“conduct problems”), 2) elevated anger, dysphoric mood, and suicidal ideation (“mood dysregulation”), and 3) low levels of severe conduct and mood symptoms. A diathesis-stress model predicting the first two outcomes was tested. Elevated overt aggression at school entry uniquely predicted conduct problems in late adolescence, whereas elevated emotion dysregulation at school entry uniquely predicted mood dysregulation in late adolescence. Experiences of low parental warmth and peer rejection in middle childhood moderated the link between early emotion dysregulation and later mood dysregulation but did not moderate the link between early overt aggression and later conduct problems. Thus, among children with early externalizing behavior problems, increased risk for later antisocial behavior or mood dysfunction may be identifiable in early childhood based on levels of overt aggression and emotion dysregulation. For children with early emotion dysregulation, however, increased risk for mood dysregulation characterized by anger, dysphoric mood, and suicidality – possibly indicative of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder – emerges only in the presence of low parental warmth and/or peer rejection during middle childhood.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health