I.A.Y.

Youth Update Masthead

A publication of the Institute for the study of
Antisocial behaviour in Youth (IAY).
Affiliated with the
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and The Hospital for Sick Children

Edited by Dr. Jalal Shamsie,
MB, FRCP(C)
Director, Institute for the study of Antisocial behaviour in Youth
Professor of Psychiatry, University of Toronto

Volume 20, Number 2 Winter 2002

In this Issue:

Who Develops Conduct Disorder?

Cote, S., Tremblay, R.E., Nagin, D.S., Zoccolilo, M., Vitaro, F. (2002) childhood Behavioural Profiles Leading to adolescent Conduct Disorder: Risk Trajectories for Boys and Girls, JAM, Acad. Child Psychiatry 41:0 September 2002 1086 - 1094

Domestic Violence and its Effect on Children

Jaffee, S.R., Moffitt, T.E., Caspi A., Arseneault, L. (2002). Influence of adult Domestici Violence on Children's Internalising and Externalising Problems: An Environmentally Informative Twin Study: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 41(9), 1095 - 1103.

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Also in this Issue:

  • Mothers vs fathers psychopathology as it affects children

  • Preventing antisocial and violent behaviour in youth

  • Child Neglect: Causes, Outcomes and Treatment strategies

  • Treatment of substance abusing juvenile offenders

  • Antisocial behaviour: Childhood onset or adolescence onset

  • What works for juvenile offenders

Who Develops Conduct Disorder?

Cote, S., Tremblay, R.E., Nagin, D.S., Zoccolilo, M., Vitaro, F. (2002) childhood Behavioural Profiles Leading to adolescent Conduct Disorder: Risk Trajectories for Boys and Girls, JAM, Acad. Child Psychiatry 41:0 September 2002 1086 - 1094

It has been suggested that certain traits of personality determine and explain the continuity of antisocial behavior from childhood to adolesence. The aim of this study was to determine the predictive value of three behavior profiles, hyperactivity, fearfulness and helpfulness in different combinations. The study was conducted on children of 6 years of age. These children were assessed 7 times between the ages of 6 and 12. A person-orientated approach was used to examine separately boys and girls.

Results

In girls it was the combination of hyperactivity and unhelpfulness, which increased the risk of conduct disorder in mid- adolescence. However both these profiles are uncommon in girls compared with boys. Girls tend to be empathic, helpful and competent. The combination of hyperactivity and unhelpfulness is less common in girls ( 3.8% of the sample compared to boys 11.5%) than boys.

In boys the profile which predicted conduct disorder in adolescence was the single dimension of hyperactivity. Boys who besides being hyperactive were also fearless and unhelpful did not increase the risk of conduct disorder.

The study does not explain why high hyperactivity
during elementary school is sufficient conduct disorder risk for boys but not for girls.

The sex differences in terms of developing conduct disorder are quite remarkable. Almost three times more boys had a conduct disorder diagnosis than girls in adolescence. Three times more boys than girls had violent symptoms of conduct disorder than girls. Thus a higher proportion of boys were on highly stable risk trajectories from kindergarten on, and this may partly explain higher number of boys having conduct disorder in adolescence than girls.

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Domestic Violence and its Effect on Children

Jaffee, S.R., Moffitt, T.E., Caspi A., Arseneault, L. (2002). Influence of adult Domestici Violence on Children's Internalising and Externalising Problems: An Environmentally Informative Twin Study: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 41(9), 1095 - 1103.

When parents engage in frequent, intense, and poorly resolved conflicts, their children are likely to suffer from elevated levels of both internalising and externalising problems. More than 10 million children in the U.S. witness violence between their parents each year. Very young children of inexperienced parents in their twenties are at particularly high risk of exposure. Violence in the family of origin has been implicated in a cycle of abuse that is transmitted across generations. Externalising and internalising problems may aggregate in families because 1) siblings share genetic risks for problem behaviours or 2) siblings are exposed to similar environmental risks.

Using the Achenbach family of instruments, and a genetically sensitive design, this study examined whether domestic violence accounted significantly for the differences in externalising and internalising problems, independent of genetic effects on these behaviour problems. Mothers and teachers reported internalising and externalising problems for 1,116 monozygotic (identical) and dizygotic(fraternal) 9 5?year?old twin pairs in the United Kingdom. Mothers reported their experiences of domestic violence in the previous 5 years. A multivariate model showed that adult domestic violence accounted for 2% and 5% of the variation in children's internalising and externalising problems, respectively, independent of genetic effects. The co-occurrence of externalising and internalising scores was accounted for by genetic (62.6%) and shared environmental (29.2%) factors and by domestic violence (8%). Because domestic violence affects children's behaviour problems beyond genetic influences, programs that successfully reduce domestic violence should also prevent children's psychopathology. Behavioural geneticists have suggested that children whose parents experience domestic violence may be at genetic risk for behaviour problems. That is, adults who meet diagnostic criteria for psychiatric disorders (including antisocial personality disorder, substance use, and depression) are at greater risk of becoming involved in violent intimate relationships.

These findings highlight the importance of identifying potentially modifiable environmental risks in the etiology of behavioural disorders.

Further, strong genetic effects do not preclude the possibility that domestic violence or other aspects of the environment may mediate genetic influences on behaviour. Genetically vulnerable children may be the most susceptible to the effects of domestic violence. Treatment strategies should work at multiple levels by 1) addressing children's emotional insecurity, perceptions of threat, or attributions of self?blame, 2) improving child management techniques at the level of the parent?child relationship, and 3) offering couples therapy, which may facilitate children's treatment gains.

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