The long-term consequences of child and adolescent externalizing problems often involve a wide spectrum of social maladaptation in adult life. The purpose of this study was to describe the predictive link of child and adolescent externalizing developmental trajectories to social functioning in adulthood.
Social functioning was predicted from developmental trajectories of parent-reported aggression, opposition, property violations and status violations that were defined in a longitudinal multiple birth cohort study of 2076 males and females aged 4–18 years. Social functioning was assessed using self-reports by young adults aged 18–30 years. Linear and logistic regression analyses were used to describe the extent to which developmental trajectories are prospectively related to social functioning.
Children with high-level trajectories of opposition and status violations reported more impaired social functioning as young adults than children with high-level trajectories of aggression and property violations. Young adults who showed onset of problems in adolescence reported overall less impaired social functioning than individuals with high-level externalizing problems starting in childhood. Overall, males reported more impaired social functioning in adulthood than females. However, females with persistent high-level externalizing behaviour reported more impairment in relationships than males with persistent high-level externalizing behaviour.
The long-term consequences of high levels of opposition and status violations in childhood to serious social problems during adulthood are much stronger than for individuals who show only high levels of aggressive antisocial behaviours.
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