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The stability of externalizing behavior in boys from preschool age to adolescence: A person-oriented analysis

Author(s): Mark Stemmler | Friedrich Lösel

Journal: Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling
ISSN 2190-0493

Volume: 54;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 195;
Date: 2012;
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Keywords: Prediction-Configural Frequency Analysis (P-CFA) | proactive and reactive aggression | delinquency | longitudinal research

The continuity of externalizing behaviors such as aggression, delinquency and hyperactivity has been noted by many researchers. There is also increasing knowledge on different developmental subtypes of problem behavior. In previous person-oriented analyses we found two types of externalizing problems in boys (Stemmler et al., 2005, 2008; Stemmler & Lösel, 2010). One pattern contained externalizing problems only, whereas the other type showed both externalizing and internalizing problems. The present study addressed these two groups in an extended prospective longitudinal design. It was investigated whether the groups remained stable over time and whether the two types of antisociality were related to offending in adolescence. The sample consisted of 295 boys from the Erlangen-Nuremberg Development and Prevention Study (Lösel et al., 2009). Social behavior was rated by mothers, kindergarten educators, and school teachers; offending was self-reported by the adolescents. The time lag between the first and last data assessment was more than eight years.Approximately nine percent of the boys revealed stable externalizing behavior problems over the entire assessment period. Criminal behavior correlated positively with externalizing problems and negatively with internalizing problems. In a person-oriented Prediction-Configural Frequency Analysis (P-CFA; von Eye, 2002) the ‘externalizing only’ pattern could be replicated and suggested high stability over time. Moreover, this pattern was clearly related to self-reported delinquent behavior. In contrast to our previous studies with shorter follow up periods, the ‘combined externalizing and internalizing’ pattern did not appear as a type. It was also not significantly related to juvenile offending. Potential explanations for these findings are discussed.
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