Antisocial Behavior and Depressive Symptoms: Longitudinal and Concurrent Relations

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INTRODUCTION

The existing base of empirical evidence has established that both depressive symptoms (Gutman & Sameroff, 2004; Lewinsohn, Rohde, Seeley, & Fischer, 1993) and antisocial behavior (Barnow, Lucht, & Freyberger, 2005; Moffitt, 1993) show a significant increase in both prevalence and incidence during early adolescence. Moreover, various studies have indicated that antisocial behavior and depressive symptoms co-occur frequently (Ge, Best, Conger, & Simons, 1996; Huizinga & Jakob-Chien, 1998; Lewinsohn, Hops, Roberts, Seeley, & Andrews, 1993; Loeber & Keenan, 1994; Overbeek, Biesecker, Kerr, Stattin, Meeus, & Engels, 2006). To explain comorbidity Caron and Rutter (1991) have proposed three possibilities. The first suggests that two separate disorders may share the same risk factors; the second, that the comorbid occurrence may represent a distinct syndrome; and the third, that one disorder may increase the risk for the second disorder.

In relation to the third model, of particular interest in the present study, research has provided empirical support for depressive symptoms leading to antisocial behavior (Beyers & Loeber, 2003; Curran & Bollen, 2001; Loeber, Russo, Stouthamer-Loeber, & Lahey, 1994) as well as antisocial behavior leading to depressive symptoms (Capaldi & Stoolmiller, 1999; Feehan, McGee, & Williams, 1993; MacPhee & Andrews, 2006; Overbeek, Vollebergh, Meeus, Engels, & Luijpers, 2001; Patterson, Reid, & Dishion, 1992). Because this existing literature provides inconsistent and contradictory results, the present study examined the longitudinal relations between depressive symptoms and antisocial behavior by modeling their impact on one another in a sample of early adolescents.

Explaining the Co-occurrence of Antisocial Behavior and Depression

The explanation that either antisocial behavior or depression plays a causal role in the development of the other (Caron & Rutter, 1991) has received a great deal of attention at both the theoretical and empirical levels. One of the most influential models proposed in the literature, called the "failure model" (Patterson & Capaldi, 1990), predicts that antisocial behavior elicits predictable reactions from the social environment (e.g., family and peers), and that this "failure" then leads to depressive symptoms. Research that has tested this model has provided contradictory support for the hypothesis (Capaldi, 1992; Kiesner, 2002; Panak & Garber, 1992; Feehan et al., 1993). On the other hand, research has suggested that the relation between sub-clinical conduct problems and later depression may be limited to early adolescence (Capaldi & Stoolmiller, 1999).

In the model proposed by Patterson et al. (1992), depressed mood that results from earlier antisocial behavior, is also expected to lead to increases in antisocial behavior (Beyers & Loeber, 2003). Thus, this model actually hypothesizes reciprocal effects between antisocial behavior and depression. Consistent with this notion, several studies (Capaldi, 1992; Kovacs, Paulauskas, Gatsonis, & Richards, 1988) confirmed that stable depressed mood was associated with boys' escalation to higher levels of delinquent behavior. On the other hand, Capaldi and Stoolmiller (1999) found that depressive symptoms (across grades 6, 7, and 8) did not predict increases in conduct problems (at grade 12).

In the present study we examined concurrent and longitudinal relations between antisocial behavior and depression. Because both antisocial behavior and depression were measured at two time points, this study is well suited to address questions about directionality of the relations between these constructs. We therefore controlled for stability in each measure, and then tested for direct cross-lag effects as well as indirect effects of each time-one measure on the time-two measure of the other construct. …