Links between Within-person Fluctuations in Hyperactivity/attention Problems and Subsequent Conduct Problems

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology


Background: The onset of hyperactivity/impulsivity and attention problems (HAP) is typically younger than that of conduct problems (CP), and some research supports a directional relation wherein HAP precedes CP. Studies have tested this theory using between-person and between-group comparisons, with conflicting results. In contrast, prior research has not examined the effects of within-person fluctuations in HAP on CP.

Method: This study tested the hypothesis that within-person variation in HAP would positively predict subsequent within-person variation in CP, in two population samples of youth (N = 620) who participated in identical methods of assessment over the course of 30 months. Three-level, hierarchical models were used to test for within-person, longitudinal associations between HAP and CP, as well as moderating effects of between-person and between-family demographics.

Results: We found a small but significant association in the expected direction for older youth, but the opposite effect in younger and non-Caucasian youth. These results were replicated across both samples.

Conclusions: The process by which early HAP relates to later CP may vary by age and racial identity.

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