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)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Psychosocial Development, Risk and Prevention Study Section (PDRP)
Program Officer
Zehr, Julia L
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of North Carolina Greensboro
Other Health Professions
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
Zip Code
Perry, Nicole B; Calkins, Susan D; Dollar, Jessica M et al. (2018) Self-regulation as a predictor of patterns of change in externalizing behaviors from infancy to adolescence. Dev Psychopathol 30:497-510
Perry, Nicole B; Dollar, Jessica M; Calkins, Susan D et al. (2018) Childhood self-regulation as a mechanism through which early overcontrolling parenting is associated with adjustment in preadolescence. Dev Psychol 54:1542-1554
Gangel, Meghan J; Shanahan, Lilly; Kolacz, Jacek et al. (2017) Vagal Regulation of Cardiac Function in Early Childhood and Cardiovascular Risk in Adolescence. Psychosom Med 79:614-621
Janssen, James A; Kolacz, Jacek; Shanahan, Lilly et al. (2017) Childhood temperament predictors of adolescent physical activity. BMC Public Health 17:8
Wideman, Laurie; Calkins, Susan D; Janssen, James A et al. (2016) Rationale, design and methods for the RIGHT Track Health Study: pathways from childhood self-regulation to cardiovascular risk in adolescence. BMC Public Health 16:459
Nelson, Jackie A; Perry, Nicole B; O'Brien, Marion et al. (2016) Mothers' and Fathers' Reports of their Supportive Responses to their Children's Negative Emotions over Time. Parent Sci Pract 16:56-62
Blair, Bethany L; Perry, Nicole B; O'Brien, Marion et al. (2015) Identifying developmental cascades among differentiated dimensions of social competence and emotion regulation. Dev Psychol 51:1062-73
Mackler, Jennifer S; Kelleher, Rachael T; Shanahan, Lilly et al. (2015) Parenting Stress, Parental Reactions, and Externalizing Behavior From Ages 4 to 10. J Marriage Fam 77:388-406
Shanahan, Lilly; Calkins, Susan D; Keane, Susan P et al. (2014) Trajectories of internalizing symptoms across childhood: The roles of biological self-regulation and maternal psychopathology. Dev Psychopathol 26:1353-68
Morris, N; Keane, S; Calkins, S et al. (2014) Differential Components of Reactivity and Attentional Control Predicting Externalizing Behavior. J Appl Dev Psychol 35:121-127

Showing the most recent 10 out of 43 publications