Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-x5gtn Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-17T06:06:21.164Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Childhood-onset versus adolescent-onset antisocial conduct problems in males: Natural history from ages 3 to 18 years

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 March 2009

Terrie E. Moffitt*
University of Wisconsin at Madison
Avshalom Caspi
University of Wisconsin at Madison
Nigel Dickson
University of Otago
Phil Silva
University of Otago
Warren Stanton
University of Queensland
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dept. of Psychology, 1202 W. Johnson St., Madison, WI 53706


We report data that support the distinction between childhood-onset and adolescent-onset type conduct problems. Natural histories are described from a representative birth cohort of 457 males studied longitudinally from age 3 to 18 years. Childhood- and adolescent-onset cases differed on temperament as early as age 3 years, but almost half of childhood-onset cases did not become seriously delinquent. Type comparisons were consistent with our contention that males whose antisocial behavior follows a life-course-persistent path differ from males who follow an adolescence-limited path. As adolescents, the two types differed on convictions for violent crime, personality profiles, school leaving, and bonds to family. These differences can be attributed to developmental history because the two groups were well matched on measures of antisocial conduct at age 18 years: parent-reports, self-reports, and adjudication records. By age 18 years, many conduct-problem boys had encountered factors that could ensnare them in an antisocial future: substance dependence, unsafe sex, dangerous driving habits, delinquent friends, delinquent perceptions, and unemployment. Implications for theory, research design, prevention, and therapeutic treatment of conduct problems are highlighted.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1996

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Achenbach, T. M. (1993). Taxonomy and comorbidity of conduct problems: Evidence from empirically based approaches. Development and Psychopathology, 5, 5164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
American Psychiatric Association. (1968, 1980, 1987, 1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (2nd ed.; 3rd ed.; 3rd ed. rev.; 4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
Anderson, J. C., Williams, S. M., McGee, R. O., & Silva, P. A. (1987). DSM-III disorders in preadoles-cent children—Prevalence in a large sample from the general population. Archives of General Psychiatry, 44, 6976.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Blumstein, A., & Cohen, J. (1987). Characterizing criminal careers. Science, 237, 985991.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Caspi, A., Henry, B., McGee, R. O., Moffitt, T. E., & Silva, P. A. (1995). Temperamental origins of child and adolescent behavior problems: From age 3 to age 15. Child Development, 66, 5568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Caspi, A., & Moffitt, T. E. (1995). The continuity of maladaptive behavior: From description to understanding in the study of antisocial behavior. In Cicchetti, D. & Cohen, D. (Eds.), Manual of Developmental Psychopathology (pp. 472511). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
Cloninger, C. R. (1987). A systematic method for clinical description and classification of personality variants. Archives of General Psychiatry, 44, 573588.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Costello, A., Edelbrock, C., Kalas, R., Kessler, M., & Klaric, S. (1982). National Institute of Mental Health Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children. Rockville, MD: National Institute of Mental Health.Google Scholar
Dickson, N., Paul, C., & Herbison, P. (1993). Adolescents, sexual behavior, and implications for an epidemic of HIV/AIDS among the young. Genitourinary Medicine, 69, 133140.Google ScholarPubMed
Elliott, D. S., & Huizinga, D. (1984). The relationship between delinquent behavior and ADM problems. Paper presented at the ADAMHA/OJJDP State of the Art Research Conference of Juvenile Offenders with Serious Drug, Alcohol and Mental Health Problems, Rockville, MD: National Institute of Justice Clearinghouse.Google Scholar
Elliott, D. S., & Huizinga, D. (1989). Improving self-reported measures of delinquency. In Klein, M. W. (Ed.), Cross-national research in self-reported crime and delinquency, (pp. 155186). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Eysenck, H. J. (1977). Crime and personality. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
Farrington, D. P. (1986). Age and crime. In Tonry, M. & Morris, N. (Eds.), Crime and Justice: An Annual Review of Research (pp. 189250). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Farrington, D. P., Loeber, R., Elliott, D. S., Hawkins, D. J., Kandel, D. B., Klein, M. W., McCord, J., Rowe, D., & Tremblay, R. (1990). Advancing knowledge about the onset of delinquency and crime. In Lahey, B. & Kazdin, A. (Eds.), Advances in clinical child psychology, vol. 13 (pp. 231342). New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
Farrington, D. P., Ohlin, L., & Wilson, J. Q. (1986). Understanding and controlling crime. New York: Springer Verlag.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Feehan, M., McGee, R., NadaRaja, S., & Williams, S. (1994). DSM-III-R disorders in New Zealand 18-year-olds. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 28, 8799.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Fendrich, M., & Vaughn, C. (1994). Diminished lifetime substance abuse over time. Public Opinion Quarterly, 58, 96123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Henry, B., Moffitt, T. E., Caspi, A., Langley, J., & Silva, P. A. (1994). On the “remembrance of things past”: A longitudinal evaluation of the retrospective method. Psychological Assessment, 6, 92101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Henry, B., Moffitt, T. E., Robins, L. N., Earls, F., & Silva, P. A. (1993). Early family predictors of child and adolescent antisocial behavior: Who are the mothers of antisocial boys? Criminal Behavior and Mental Health, 3, 97118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hinshaw, S., Lahey, B., & Hart, E. (1993). Issues of taxonomy and comorbidity in the development of conduct disorder. Development and Psychopathology. 5, 3150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jessor, R., & Jessor, S. L. (1977). Problem behavior and psychosocial development: A longitudinal study of youth. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
Kazdin, A. E. (1987). Treatment of antisocial behavior in children: Current status and future directions. Psychological Bulletin, 102, 187203.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kazdin, A. E., & Mazurick, J. L. (1994). Dropping out of child psychotherapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 62, 10691074.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kellam, S. G., Rebok, G. W., Ialongo, N., & Mayer, L. (1994). The course and malleability of aggressive behavior from early first grade into middle school: Results of a developmental epidemiologically based preventive trial. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 35, 259281.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Klein, M. W. (1984). Offense specialization and versatility among juveniles: A review of the evidence. British Journal of Criminology, 24, 185194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Klein, M. W. (1986). Labelling theory and delinquency policy. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 13, 4779.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Klein, M. W. (1987). Watch out for that last variable. In Mednick, S., Moffitt, T. E., & Stack, S. A. (Eds.), The causes of crime: New biological approaches (pp. 2541). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Krueger, R., Schmutte, P. S., Caspi, A., Moffitt, T. E., Campbell, K., & Silva, P. A. (1994). Personality traits are linked to crime among males and females: Evidence from a birth cohort. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 103. 328338.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Loeber, R., & LeBlanc, M. (1990). Toward a developmental criminology. In Tonry, M. & Morris, N. (Eds.), Crime and justice: An annual review of research (pp. 375473). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Loeber, R., & Schmaling, K. B. (1985). Empirical evidence for overt and covert patterns of antisocial conduct problems: A meta-analysis. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 13, 337352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McGee, R., Feehan, M., Williams, S., & Anderson, J. (1992). DSM-III disorders from age 11 to 15 years. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 31, 5059.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McGee, R., Williams, S. M., & Silva, P. A. (1985). Factor structure and correlates of ratings of inattention, hyperactivity, and antisocial behavior in a large sample of 9 year old children from the general population. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 53, 480490.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moffitt, T. E. (1989). Accommodating self-report methods to a low-delinquency culture: Experience from New Zealand. In Klein, M. W. (Ed.), Crossnational research in self-reported crime and delinquency (pp. 4366). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moffitt, T. E. (1990). Juvenile delinquency and attention-deficit disorder: Developmental trajectories from age three to fifteen. Child Development, 61, 893910.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moffitt, T. E. (1993a). “Life-course-persistent” and “adolescent-limited” antisocial behavior: A developmental taxonomy. Psychological Review, 100, 674701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moffitt, T. E. (1993b). The neuropsychology of conduct disorder. Development and Psychopathology, 5, 135151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moffitt, T. E. (in press). Adolescence-limited and life-course-persistent offending: A complementary pair of developmental theories. In Thornberry, T. (Ed.), Advances in criminological theory: Developmental theories of crime and delinquency. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.Google Scholar
Moffitt, T. E., Caspi, A., Silva, P. A., & Stouthamcr-Loeber, M. (1995). Individual differences in personality and intelligence are linked to crime: Cross-context evidence from nations, neighborhoods, genders, races, and age-cohorts. In Hagan, J. (Ed.), Current perspectives on aging and the life cycle, Vol. 4: Delinquency and disrepute in the life course: Contextual and dynamic analyses (pp. 134). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
Moffitt, T. E., Lynam, D., & Silva, P. A. (1994). Neuropsychological tests predict persistent male delinquency. Criminology, 32, 101124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moffitt, T. E., Mednick, S. A., & Gabrielli, W. F. (1989). Predicting criminal violence: Descriptive data and predispositional factors. In Brizer, D. & Crowner, M. (Eds.), Current approaches to the prediction of violence (pp. 1334). New York: American Psychiatric Association Press.Google Scholar
Moffitt, T. E., Silva, P. A., Lynam, D., & Henry, B. (1994). Self-reported delinquency at age 18: New Zealand's Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study. In Junger-Tas, J. & Terlouw, G. J. (Eds.), The international self-report delinquency project (pp. 354369). Amsterdam: Kugler.Google Scholar
Nagin, D. S., Farrington, D. P., & Moffitt, T. E. (1995). Life-course trajectories of different types of offenders. Criminology, 33, 111140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nagin, D. S., & Land, K. C. (1993). Age, criminal careers, and population heterogeneity: Specification and estimation of a nonparametric, mixed poison model. Criminology, 31, 327362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Olweus, D. (1991). Bully-victim problems among schoolchildren: Basic facts and effects of a school-based intervention program. In Pepler, D. & Rubin, K. (Eds.), The development and treatment of childhood aggression (pp. 411448). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Patterson, G. R., & Yoerger, K. (1993). Developmental models for delinquent behavior. In Hodgins, S. (Ed.), Mental disorder and crime (pp. 140172). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
Quay, H. C. (1964). Personality dimensions in delinquent males as inferred from the factor analysis of behavior ratings. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 1, 3337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Quay, H. C. (1987). Patterns of delinquent behavior. In Quay, H. C. (Ed.), Handbook of juvenile delinquency (pp. 118138). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
Quay, H. C., & Peterson, D. R. (1987). Revised behavior problem checklist: Interim manual. Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami.Google Scholar
Quinton, D., Pickles, A., Maughan, B., & Rutter, M. (1993). Partners, peers, and pathways: Assortative pairing and continuities in conduct disorder. Development and Psychopathology, 5, 763783.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Raine, A. (1993). The psychopathology of crime: Criminal behavior as a clinical disorder. New York: Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Raine, A., Brennan, P., & Mednick, S. A. (1994). Birth complications combined with early maternal rejection at age 1 year predispose to violent crime at age 18 years. Archives of General Psychiatry, 51, 984988.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Robins, L. N. (1978). Sturdy childhood predictors of adult antisocial behavior: Replications from longitudinal studies. Psychological Medicine, 8, 611622.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Robins, L. N., & Regier, D. A. (1991). Psychiatric disorders in America. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
Rutter, M., Tizard, J., & Whitmore, K. (1970). Education, health, and behavior. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
Sampson, R. J., & Laub, J. H. (1993). Crime in the making. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shedler, J., & Block, J. (1990). Adolescent drug use and psychological health. American Psychologist, 45, 612630.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Silva, P. A. (1990). The Dunedin multidisciplinary health and development study: A fifteen-year longitudinal study. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 4, 96127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tabachnik, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (1983). Using multivariate statistics. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
Tellegen, A. (1982). Brief manual for the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.Google Scholar
Tellegen, A., Lykken, D. T., Bouchard, T. J., Wilcox, K. J., Segal, N. L., & Rich, S. (1988). Personality similarity in twins reared apart and together. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 6, 10311039.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tellegen, A., & Waller, N. G. (in press). Exploring personality through test construction: Development of Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire. In Briggs, S. R. & Cheek, J. M. (Eds.), Personality measures: Development and evaluation (vol. 1). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
White, J., Moffitt, T. E., Caspi, A., Jeglum-Bartusch, D., Needles, D., & Stouthamer-Loeber, M. (1994). Measuring impulsivity and examining its relation to delinquency. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 103, 192205.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Wright, B., Caspi, A., Moffitt, T., & Silva, P. (1995). Because you had no place to stay: Doubled-up housing during the transition to adulthood. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
Yoshikawa, H. (1994). Prevention as cumulative protection: Effects of early family support and education on chronic delinquency and its risks. Psychological Bulletin, 115, 2854.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Zuckerman, M. (1989). Personality in the third dimension: A psychobiological approach. Personality and Individual Differences. 10, 391418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar