Child Neuropsychological Functioning and Interpersonal Callousness as Predictors of Externalising Behaviour in Early Adolescence: A Prospective Population-based Study

Isabel E. de Graaf, Koen Bolhuis, Charlotte A.M. Cecil, Tonya H. White, Josanne D.M. van Dongen*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Externalizing problems are a key predictor of individual functioning in adulthood. Therefore, identifying possible risk factors for externalising problems is valuable for optimising prevention and treatment programmes. Previous research has shown that (domains of) neuropsychological functioning predict externalising problems later in life. However, the influence of callous traits, and sex as potential moderators in this relation remains unclear. The aim of this study was to examine associations between neuropsychological functioning in children (at age 8 years) and later externalising behaviour in adolescence (at age 14 years), as well as to test the role of callous traits (at age 10 years) and sex as moderating factors. The analyses were conducted using data from 661 Dutch children from the population-based Generation R Study (47.2% female). We found no association between neuropsychological functioning and later externalising behaviour. However, callous traits predicted externalising problems at age 14 years. Further, callous traits moderated the association between neuropsychological functioning and externalising behaviour, though this association dropped below the statistical significance level when adjusted for confounders. Specifically, while higher neuropsychological functioning was associated with more externalising behaviour in children with high callous traits, lower neuropsychological functioning was not associated with externalising behaviour in children with low callous traits. Although boys showed significantly higher externalising behaviours compared to girls, no moderating effect of sex was found on the association between neuropsychological functioning and externalising behaviour. These results add to a growing body of evidence supporting a distinct neurocognitive profile in children with high vs low callousness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1465-1480
Number of pages16
JournalResearch on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
Volume51
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jun 2023

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Publisher Copyright: © 2023, The Author(s).

Research programs

  • ESSB PSY

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