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Developmental cascades: Externalizing, internalizing, and academic competence from middle childhood to early adolescence

  • Kristin L. Moilanen (a1), Daniel S. Shaw (a1) and Kari L. Maxwell (a2)

The current study was initiated to increase understanding of developmental cascades in childhood in a sample of at-risk boys (N = 291; 52% White). Mothers, teachers, and boys reported on boys' externalizing problems, internalizing difficulties, and academic competence. Consistent with hypotheses regarding school-related transitions, high levels of externalizing problems were associated with both low levels of academic competence and high levels of internalizing problems during the early school-age period, and with elevations in internalizing problems during the transition to adolescence. Low levels of academic competence were associated with high levels of internalizing problems in middle childhood, and with high levels of externalizing problems during the transition from elementary school to middle school. Shared risk factors played a minimal role in these developmental cascades. Results suggest that there are cascading effects of externalizing problems and academic competence in childhood and early adolescence, and that some cascading effects are more likely to occur during periods of school-related transitions. Implications of developmental cascade effects for research and intervention are discussed.

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Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Kristin L. Moilanen, Child Development and Family Studies, Department of Technology, Learning and Culture, West Virginia University, P.O. Box 6122, Morgantown, WV 26506; E-mail:
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