Adolescent psychopathology is a significant public health concern that exacts a toll on children, families, and communities. Yet, to date, we have not identified the mechanisms and moderators that explain how and why some adolescents are at higher risk than others, or why gender differences in some forms of psychopathology emerge in adolescence. These gaps in our knowledge hinder the basic scientific understanding of adjustment processes and the development of effective prevention and intervention approaches. In this continuation of our prior work on childhood behavior problems, we use a biobehavioral model of self-regulatory development to study the developmental processes associated with psychopathology in adolescence. The rationale for our approach is that one fundamental challenge for adolescents is the increasingly independent regulation of affect, behavior, and thought to meet social and academic challenges. We take a developmental perspective and propose that the development of specific self-regulatory processes across childhood and adolescence interact with adolescent social (parents and peers) and individual factors (prior problem behavior, attitudes toward and engagement in risky behavior, and pubertal timing) to predict psychopathology outcomes, including symptoms and diagnoses of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)/ Conduct Disorder (CD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Depression, and Anxiety. This proposal describes an adolescent follow-up of more than 350 boys and girls at risk for behavior problems who have been assessed in multiple contexts, using multiple measures, across multiple levels of analysis at 2, 4, 5, 7, and 10 years of age. The primary aims of the current proposal are (1) to examine main effects of specific biobehavioral self-regulatory processes and their trajectories (biological, emotional, behavioral, and executive control) from early childhood through adolescence on specific psychopathology outcomes (ODD/CD, ADHD, Depression, and Anxiety) in adolescence, and to examine how these processes may differ for boys and girls;(2) to examine social influences (parent and peer factors) that moderate the relation between early self-regulation and adolescent psychopathology outcomes and differences in these relations for boys and girls;(3) to examine individual factors (prior behavior problems, attitudes toward and engagement in risky behaviors, and pubertal timing) that moderate the relation between early self-regulation and adolescent psychopathology outcomes and differences in these relations for boys and girls. By extending our biobehavioral model to incorporate cortical functioning, risky behavior, and psychopathology, this longitudinal sample is uniquely suited to study the role of self-regulation in psychosocial adaptation and functioning in adolescent boys and girls.

Public Health Relevance

This proposed research project will examine the development of self-regulatory processes prior to and during adolescence in interaction with social and individual factors with a focus on their biological and behavioral links to emerging adolescent psychopathology. Understanding the mechanisms and moderators that explain how and why some adolescents are at higher risk than others for psychopathology in adolescence, particularly that of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)/Conduct Disorder (CD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Depression and Anxiety, will facilitate the development of effective preventions and interventions. The longitudinal nature of this study will be particularly important for understanding parent, peer, child, and community factors present in early childhood that may increase risk for maladaptive outcomes in adolescence and that may help identify populations of children and families that would benefit from early treatment to prevent adolescent psychopathology outcomes.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Psychosocial Development, Risk and Prevention Study Section (PDRP)
Program Officer
Zehr, Julia L
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University of North Carolina Greensboro
Other Health Professions
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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