Early risk indicators of internalizing problems in late childhood: a 9-year longitudinal study

Janka Ashford, Filip Smit, Pol A C van Lier, Pim Cuijpers, Hans M Koot
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines 2008, 49 (7): 774-80

BACKGROUND: Longitudinal studies on risk indicators of internalizing problems in childhood are in short supply, but could be valuable to identify target groups for prevention.

METHODS: Standardized assessments of 294 children's internalizing problems at the age of 2-3 years (parent report), 4-5 years (parent and teacher report) and 11 years (parent and teacher) were available in addition to risk indicators from the child, family and contextual domain.

RESULTS: Low socioeconomic status, family psychopathology at child age 2-3, parenting stress at child age 4-5 years, and parents' reports of child internalizing problems at age 4-5 years were the strongest predictors of internalizing problems at the age of 11. If these early risk factors were effectively ameliorated through preventive interventions, up to 57% of internalizing cases at age 11 years could be avoided.

CONCLUSIONS: Predictors from as early as 2-5 years of age are relevant for identifying children at risk of internalizing problems in late childhood. The methodological approach used in this study can help to identify children who are most in need of preventive interventions and help to assess the potential health gain and efficiency of such interventions.

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