Academic journal article Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling

Continuity and Patterns of Externalizing and Internalizing Behavior Problems in Girls: A Variable- and Person-Oriented Study from Preschool to Youth Age

Academic journal article Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling

Continuity and Patterns of Externalizing and Internalizing Behavior Problems in Girls: A Variable- and Person-Oriented Study from Preschool to Youth Age

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article addresses the continuity and patterns of externalizing and internalizing behavior prob- lems in girls from kindergarten to secondary school age and also relations to offending in adoles- cence. It is a sequel to a similar investigation of boys at the same age (Stemmler & Lösel, 2012). The sample consisted of 294 girls from the Erlangen-Nuremberg Development and Prevention Study. Behavior problems were measured by the Social Behavior Questionnaire at approximate child ages of 4.5 years (kindergarten educators as informants), 10.5 years (school teachers" infor- mation) and 13.5 years (mothers" information). The third assessment also contained a self report on juvenile delinquency. Both person-oriented and variable-oriented methods of data analysis were applied (i.e. correlations and Prediction-Configural Frequency Analysis).

The correlations between externalizing and internalizing problems at preschool age and in youth were mainly small, but in the same range as in the boys" study. In contrast to the boys" study no significant type of 'externalizing only" problem behavior was observed. The externalizing problems at youth age were more related to internalizing problems than in the boys" sample. There were no significant differences in juvenile delinquency between the various patterns of externalizing and internalizing problems in adolescence except for status offenses (e.g. truancy, substance misuse). Overall the results suggest similarities as well as differences between both genders, whereby inter- nalizing problems in girls seem to play a stronger role for antisocial behavior than in boys. Poten- tial content and methodological explanations for these findings are discussed.

Key words: Behavior problems in girls, externalizing behavior, internalizing behavior, juvenile delinquency, longitudinal research, Prediction-Configural Frequency Analysis

Introduction

Most studies on aggression, delinquency, violence and other externalizing behavior prob- lems in young people address males. In comparison, the forms, prevalence, development and origins of antisocial behavior in girls are much less investigated (Baxendale, Cross & Johnson, 2012; Moffitt, Caspi, Rutter & Silva, 2001). Although there is not always con- sistency between different studies and countries, previous findings suggest the following (e.g. Baxendale et al., 2012; Lösel & Bliesener, 2003; Moffitt et al., 2001; Piquero, Car- riaga, Diamond, Kazemian & Farrington, 2012): The prevalence of delinquency in girls is lower than in boys, particularly with regard to violent offenses. Differences in the frequency and seriousness of antisocial behavior between boys and girls are less distinct in indirect or verbal aggression and petty theft. Although the relationship between gender and violence is moderated and mediated by other factors, the main risk factors and ori- gins are similar to those in boys. In both sexes there is significant stability of the problem behavior (particularly for early starting antisocial youngsters), however, most studies also found much behavioral flexibility as indicated by processes of desistance, late start- ing and fluctuation of antisocial activity over time. Because of the relative scarcity of studies on female antisocial behavior and tendencies of an increase of such problems, this topic should attract more attention in research (Alsaker & Bütikofer, 2005; Baxendale et al., 2012).

Within this context, the present article addresses the question of continuity and different patterns of externalizing and internalizing problems in girls from preschool to secondary school age. The paper is a sequel to our previous publications on variable- and person- oriented analyses of antisocial behavior in boys (Stemmler & Lösel, 2010; 2012; Stemmler, Lösel, Beelmann, Jaursch & Zenkert, 2005; Stemmler, Lösel, Beelmann & Jaursch, 2008). In these studies we applied Configurai Frequency Analysis (CFA; Lienert & Krauth, 1975; von Eye, 2002; von Eye, Mair & Mun, 2010) to investigate different patterns of externalizing problems in the Erlangen-Nuremberg Development and Prevention Study (ENDPS) from preschool over primary school to secondary school age. …

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