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What predicts persistent early conduct problems? Evidence from the Growing Up in Scotland cohort
  1. Philip Wilson1,
  2. Paul Bradshaw2,
  3. Sarah Tipping3,
  4. Marion Henderson4,
  5. Geoff Der4,
  6. Helen Minnis1
  1. 1Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow
  2. 2ScotCen Social Research, Edinburgh, UK
  3. 3NatCen Social Research, London, UK
  4. 4MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, Glasgow, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Philip Wilson, University of Glasgow, Caledonia House, Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow G3 8SJ, UK; philip.wilson{at}


Background There is a strong case for early identification of factors predicting life-course-persistent conduct disorder. The authors aimed to identify factors associated with repeated parental reports of preschool conduct problems.

Method Nested case–control study of Scottish children who had behavioural data reported by parents at 3, 4 and 5 years.

Results 79 children had abnormal conduct scores at all three time points (‘persistent conduct problems’) and 434 at one or two points (‘inconsistent conduct problems’). 1557 children never had abnormal scores. Compared with children with no conduct problems, children with reported problems were significantly more likely to have mothers who smoked during pregnancy. They were less likely to be living with both parents and more likely to be in poor general health, to have difficulty being understood, to have a parent who agrees that smacking is sometimes necessary and to be taken to visit other people with children rarely. The results for children with persistent and inconsistent conduct problems were similar, but associations with poverty and maternal smoking were significantly less strong in the inconsistent group.

Conclusion These factors may be valuable in early identification of risk of major social difficulties.

  • Conduct disorder
  • child development
  • child psychiatry
  • screening
  • community child health

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by the Scotland ‘A’ MREC committee (application reference: 04/M RE 1 0/59).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement All the data presented here are now available to those members of the public who are able to obtain an ATHENS password.

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