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Biol Psychiatry. 2002 Apr 1;51(7):563-74.

Temperamental correlates of disruptive behavior disorders in young children: preliminary findings.

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  • 1Pediatric Psychopharmacology Unit, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Building 149, 13th Street, Boston, MA 02129, USA.

Erratum in

  • Biol Psychiatry 2002 Aug 15;52(4):379.



Our objective was to test the hypothesis that temperamental behavioral disinhibition measured in early childhood would be associated with disruptive behavior disorders.


We used variables from laboratory-based behavioral observations originally devised to assess behavioral inhibition to construct a theory-based a priori definition of "behavioral disinhibition" in 200 young children at-risk for panic disorder, depression, or both and 84 children of parents without anxiety or major depressive disorder. We then compared behaviorally disinhibited and nonbehaviorally disinhibited children on rates of DSM-III-R disorders and measures of academic and social dysfunction.


Behavioral disinhibition was significantly associated with higher rates of disruptive behavior disorders and mood disorders. Children with behavioral disinhibition were significantly more likely than nondisinhibited, noninhibited children to have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and to have comorbid mood and disruptive behavior disorders. Moreover, disinhibited children had lower Global Assessment of Functioning Scale scores and were more likely to have been in special classes and to have problems with school behavior and leisure activities.


These results suggest that behavioral disinhibition may represent a temperamental precursor to disruptive behavior problems, particularly ADHD. Longitudinal studies using behavioral assessments of behavioral disinhibition are needed to confirm these findings.

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