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Childhood correlates and young adult outcomes of trajectories of emotional problems from childhood to adolescence

Tseliou, Foteni, Riglin, Lucy, Thapar, Ajay ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4589-8833, Heron, Jonathan, Dennison, Charlotte ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7493-2041, Armitage, J.M. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0929-9956, Thapar, Anita ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3689-737X, Rice, Frances ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9484-1729 and Collishaw, Stephan ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4296-820X 2024. Childhood correlates and young adult outcomes of trajectories of emotional problems from childhood to adolescence. Psychological Medicine 10.1017/S0033291724000631

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Abstract

Background: Emotional problems, especially anxiety, have become increasingly common in recent generations. Few population-based studies have examined trajectories of emotional problems from early childhood to late adolescence or investigated differences in psychiatric and functional outcomes. Methods: Using the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC, n = 8286, 50.4% male), we modeled latent class growth trajectories of emotional problems, using the parent-reported Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire emotional scale (SDQ-E) on seven occasions (4–17 years). Psychiatric outcomes in young adulthood (21–25 years) were major depressive disorder (MDD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and self-harm. Functional outcomes were exam attainment, educational/occupational status, and social relationship quality. Results: We identified four classes of emotional problems: low (67.0%), decreasing (18.4%), increasing (8.9%), and persistent (5.7%) problems. Compared to those in the low class, individuals with decreasing emotional problems were not at elevated risk of any poor adult outcome. Individuals in the increasing and persistent classes had a greater risk of adult MDD (RR: 1.59 95% CI 1.13–2.26 and RR: 2.25 95% CI 1.49–3.41) and self-harm (RR: 2.37 95% CI 1.91–2.94 and RR: 1.87 95% CI 1.41–2.48), and of impairment in functional domains. Childhood sleep difficulties, irritability, conduct and neurodevelopmental problems, and family adversity were associated with a persistent course of emotional problems. Conclusions: Childhood emotional problems were common, but those whose symptoms improved over time were not at increased risk for adverse adult outcomes. In contrast, individuals with persistent or adolescent-increasing emotional problems had a higher risk of mental ill-health and social impairment in young adulthood which was especially pronounced for those with persistent emotional problems.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: In Press
Schools: Medicine
MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics (CNGG)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISSN: 0033-2917
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 27 February 2024
Date of Acceptance: 23 February 2024
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2024 14:16
URI: https://orca.cardiff.ac.uk/id/eprint/166584

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