Childhood Conduct Problems and Adult Depression: Understanding the Connection

Rick Kosterman, University of Washington
W. Alex Mason, University of Washington
J. David Hawkins, University of Washington
Todd I. Herrenkohl, University of Washington
Liliana J. Lengua, University of Washington
Elizabeth McCauley, University of Washington

Previous research has shown that childhood conduct problems put individuals at significantly higher risk for adult depression. Thus, it is important to understand depression as a possible consequence of risk factors often associated with crime, and to examine the developmental mechanisms linking early conduct problems with later depression. This paper assesses the degree to which growth in problem behaviors in adolescence mediate the relationship between childhood conduct problems and adult depression. We examine the role of problem behavior in general, as well as specific effects of growth in alcohol and substance use as potential mediators. Data are from the Seattle Social Development Project (SSDP), a multiethnic and gender-balanced urban panel of 808 participants constituted in 1985. The dataset consists of ten waves from ages 10 to 24, and includes measures from the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) during childhood and adolescence, and assessments of depression based on the Diagnostic Interview Schedule in adulthood. Substance use, delinquency, and other problem behaviors are assessed throughout. Analyses examine latent growth curve models for delinquency, alcohol use, other substance use, and other problem behaviors in adolescence, as well as higher-order problem behavior constructs, as mediators of the relationship between conduct problems at age 10 and depressive symptoms at age 24.

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Updated 05/20/2006