From Childhood Conduct Problems to Poor Functioning at Age 18 Years: Examining Explanations in a Longitudinal Cohort Study.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Childhood conduct problems are associated with poor functioning in early adulthood. We tested a series of hypotheses to understand the mechanisms underlying this association.


We used data from the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study, a birth cohort of 2,232 twins born in England and Wales in 1994 and 1995, followed up to age 18 years with 93% retention. Severe conduct problems in childhood were assessed at ages 5, 7, and 10 years using parent and teacher reports. Poor functioning at age 18 years, including cautions and convictions, daily cigarette smoking, heavy drinking, and psychosocial difficulties, was measured through interviews with participants and official crime record searches.


Participants 18 years old with versus without a childhood history of severe conduct problems had greater rates of each poor functional outcome, and they were more likely to experience multiple poor outcomes. This association was partly accounted for by concurrent psychopathology in early adulthood, as well as by early familial risk factors, both genetic and environmental. Childhood conduct problems, however, continued to predict poor outcomes at age 18 years after accounting for these explanations.


Children with severe conduct problems display poor functioning at age 18 years because of concurrent problems in early adulthood and familial risk factors originating in childhood. However, conduct problems also exert a lasting effect on young people's lives independent of these factors, pointing to early conduct problems as a target for early interventions aimed at preventing poor functional outcomes.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Wertz, J; Agnew-Blais, J; Caspi, A; Danese, A; Fisher, HL; Goldman-Mellor, S; Moffitt, TE; Arseneault, L

Published Date

  • January 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 57 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 54 - 60.e4

PubMed ID

  • 29301670

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC5772703

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1527-5418

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0890-8567

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.jaac.2017.09.437


  • eng