Antisocial Behavior and Mental Health Problems: Explanatory Factors in Childhood and Adolescence

Antisocial Behavior and Mental Health Problems: Explanatory Factors in Childhood and Adolescence

Antisocial Behavior and Mental Health Problems: Explanatory Factors in Childhood and Adolescence

Antisocial Behavior and Mental Health Problems: Explanatory Factors in Childhood and Adolescence


Epidemiological surveys have provided key information about the prevalence and degree of seriousness at different ages of a wide array of problem behaviors such as delinquency, substance use, early sexual involvement, and mental health disorders. Knowledge of the extent of these problems and changes in their course over time is important. In its absence, interventions and health planning in general can be difficult. Understanding which risk and protective factors are relevant to which problem behaviors is also essential for the formulation of theories that constitute the basis of intervention.

This book draws on the results of the major Pittsburgh Youth Study complemented by follow-up tracking of juvenile court records for more than six years, to address the following questions:

• What is the prevalence and age of onset of delinquency, substance use, and early sexual behavior for three samples of boys age 8, 11, and 14? What are the average mental health problems for these ages? How strong are the relationships among these problem behaviors in each of the samples?

• Which variables best explain individual differences among the boys in their manifestations of delinquency, substance use, early sexual behavior, and mental health problems? To what extent do explanatory factors vary with age? How accurately can boys with different outcomes be identified by risk scores based on hierarchical multiple regressions?

• To what extent are explanatory factors associated with one outcome that are also associated with other outcomes? Are explanatory factors that are especially characteristic of a multiproblem group of boys--who display many different problem behaviors--different from explanatory factors associated with boys with few problems?

• Do the results fit a general theory of juvenile problem behaviors, or is a differentiated theory more applicable?


If undertaking longitudinal studies on the development of problem behavior is one major and daunting task, publishing books about such studies is quite another. This volume reports results obtained in the Pittsburgh Youth Study, whose first assessments were carried out in 1987-1988 on three samples of boys (N = 1,517) and, which, we are happy to say, is still going strong with regular assessments of two out of the three samples (N = 1,009) of boys and their families. On perusal of this volume, readers might ask why this report focuses primarily on only the first two assessments of this rich data set. The answer is that, early on, we decided to write about the basic elements of the study, how it was started, how the samples were selected, what measurements were administered, and what the "baseline" behaviors were of the boys in the three samples. We found that this task alone easily produced a book-length manuscript, and that the results were extremely interesting in and of themselves. Second, unfortunately we encountered several delays in publishing this volume. To paraphrase Britton (1835):

Had we been less scrupulous, and influenced more by the pressing emergencies of the moment, and the entreaties and complaints of friends and correspondents, than the desire of satisfying our own minds . . ., we would certainly have finished the work two or three years ago. (p. v)

We are now in the process of writing a second volume reporting on results obtained with longitudinal data over 10 data waves. Also, we already published a good number of analyses in scientific articles and chapters using longitudinal data over more data waves, which are occasionally referred to in the present report. Among these publications is a volume on the art of executing this complex study and retaining a very high percentage of the participants over many repeated assessments (see Stouthamer-Loeber, &Van Kammen, 1995).

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