Continuity of Psychopathology Throughout Adolescence and Young Adulthood

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OBJECTIVE: This study tested two opposing hypotheses on the continuity of psychopathology throughout adolescence and young adulthood; differentiation versus dynamic mutualism. Differentiation predicts that co-occurrence decreases, while dynamic mutualism predicts that co-occurrence increases due to causal interactions amongst mental health problems.

METHOD: Using data from the Dutch TRacking Adolescents' Individual Lives Survey (n = 2228, 51% female), we studied the development of self-reported internalizing, externalizing, and attention problems at ages 11 to 26 across six waves. Random-intercept cross-lagged panel modeling was employed to distinguish within-person development from stable between-person processes.

RESULTS: Large stable between-person associations indicated that adolescents with internalizing problems tended to have both externalizing and attention problems as well. On a within-person level, mental health problems showed partial stability and strong cross-sectional co-occurrence. Within-wave associations of internalizing with externalizing or attention problems decreased between age 11 and 16 years, after which they increased again. Little heterotypic continuity was found: age 11 externalizing predicted age 13 attention, which in turn predicted age 16 externalizing problems, and internalizing predicted externalizing problems across ages 22 to 26. Findings were similar for males and females.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest co-occurrence decreases during early and middle adolescence, supporting differentiation. While co-occurrence increased again into young adulthood, this could not be labeled as dynamic mutualism because little evidence for heterotypic continuity was found in this phase of life. The strong stable links between internalizing, externalizing, and attention problems stress the importance of targeting these mental health problems and their shared risk factors together.

Originele taal-2English
Pagina's (van-tot)1-14
Aantal pagina's14
TijdschriftJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
DOI's
StatusE-pub ahead of print - 8-mrt-2022

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