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Are infant-toddler social-emotional and behavioral problems transient?

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT 06030, USA.



To examine the persistence of parent-reported social-emotional and behavioral problems in infants and toddlers.


The sample comprised 1,082 children ascertained from birth records. Children were 12 to 40 months old in year 1 (1998-1999) and 23 to 48 months old in year 2 (1999-2000). Eighty percent participated in year 1 and 91% were retained in year 2. Social-emotional and behavioral problems were measured by high scores (> or=90th percentile) on the Internalizing, Externalizing, and/or Dysregulation domains of the Infant-Toddler Social and Emotional Assessment (ITSEA). Parents reported on sociodemographic factors, family life impairment, parenting stress, and family functioning.


Among children with any high ITSEA domain score in year 1, 49.9% had persistent psychopathology, as indicated by the continued presence of a high score in year 2. In multivariate analyses, persistence was significantly more likely when parents reported co-occurring problems (i.e., problems in multiple ITSEA domains), high family life disruption, and high parenting distress in year 1. Homotypic persistence rates (i.e., same domain persistence) ranged from 38% to 50%. Only for dysregulation was homotypic persistence greater when co-occurring problems were present than for dysregulation alone. Persistence patterns were similar for boys and girls.


Findings indicate that infant-toddler social-emotional/behavioral problems are not transient and highlight the need for early identification, multidomain and family assessment, and effective early intervention.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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