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Continuity and patterns of externalizing and internalizing behavior problems in girls: A variable- and person-oriented study from preschool to youth age

Author(s): Friedrich Lösel | Mark Stemmler

Journal: Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling
ISSN 2190-0493

Volume: 54;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 307;
Date: 2012;
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Keywords: Behavior problems in girls | externalizing behavior | internalizing behavior | juvenile delinquency | longitudinal research | Prediction-Configural Frequency Analysis

This article addresses the continuity and patterns of externalizing and internalizing behavior problems in girls from kindergarten to secondary school age and also relations to offending in adolescence. It is a sequel to a similar investigation of boys at the same age (Stemmler & Lösel, 2012). The sample consisted of 294 girls from the Erlangen-Nuremberg Development and Prevention Study. Behavior problems were measured by the Social Behavior Questionnaire at approximate child ages of 4.5 years (kindergarten educators as informants), 10.5 years (school teachers’ information) and 13.5 years (mothers’ information). The third assessment also contained a self report on juvenile delinquency. Both person-oriented and variable-oriented methods of data analysis were applied (i.e. correlations and Prediction-Configural Frequency Analysis). The correlations between externalizing and internalizing problems at preschool age and in youth were mainly small, but in the same range as in the boys’ study. In contrast to the boys’ study no significant type of ‘externalizing only’ problem behavior was observed. The externalizing problems at youth age were more related to internalizing problems than in the boys’ sample. There were no significant differences in juvenile delinquency between the various patterns of externalizing and internalizing problems in adolescence except for status offenses (e.g. truancy, substance misuse). Overall the results suggest similarities as well as differences between both genders, whereby internalizing problems in girls seem to play a stronger role for antisocial behavior than in boys. Potential content and methodological explanations for these findings are discussed.
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