*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on EurekAlert.
Children who are exposed to abuse before they are eleven years old and those exposed to abuse both in childhood and adolescence may be more likely to develop conduct problems (such as bullying or stealing) than those exposed to abuse in adolescence only and those who are not exposed to abuse, according to a study published in the open-access journal BMC Psychiatry.
A team of researchers at the Universities of Bath and Bristol examined data on 13,793 children and adolescents (51.6% boys), who were followed from ages four to 17 years, included in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a cohort of children born in South-West England in the early 1990s.
Andreas Bauer, the lead author said: “Conduct problems refer to antisocial behaviors in childhood and/or adolescence, such as fighting, bullying, lying or stealing. They are associated with various negative outcomes, including mental and physical health problems, and it is important to understand their possible causes and to develop effective prevention and intervention programs.”
From the children included in this study, the authors identified three groups who developed elevated levels of conduct problems. There was an early-onset persistent group who developed conduct problems in childhood which continued into adolescence (4.8% of the sample), an adolescence-onset group who developed conduct problems in adolescence (4.5%), and a childhood-limited group who developed conduct problems in childhood only (15.4%). The majority of children (75.3%) did not develop serious conduct problems.
Andreas Bauer said: “We assessed whether abuse was more common in the backgrounds of these three groups than in those who did not develop conduct problems. Our findings showed that abuse was more common in the early-onset persistent group who showed conduct problems in childhood and adolescence, and also in the adolescence-onset group who developed conduct problems in adolescence.”