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J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2015 Oct;56(10):1065-73. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12390. Epub 2015 Feb 5.

Early childhood behavioral inhibition, adult psychopathology and the buffering effects of adolescent social networks: a twenty-year prospective study.

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Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA.
Section on Development and Affective Neuroscience, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.
Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA.



We examined whether the temperament of behavioral inhibition is a significant marker for psychopathology in early adulthood and whether such risk is buffered by peer social networks.


Participants (N = 165) were from a prospective study spanning the first two decades of life. Temperament was characterized during infancy and early childhood. Extent of involvement in peer social networks was measured during adolescence, and psychopathology was assessed in early adulthood. Latent Class Analyses generated comprehensive variables at each of three study time-points. Regressions assessed (a) the direct effect of early behavioral inhibition on adult psychopathology (b) the moderating effect of adolescent involvement in social peer networks on the link between temperamental risk and adult psychopathology.


Stable behavioral inhibition in early childhood was negatively associated with adult mental health (R(2 ) = .07, p = .005, β = -.26), specifically increasing risk for adult anxiety disorders (R(2) = .04, p = .037, β = .19). These temperament-pathology relations were significantly moderated by adolescent peer group social involvement and network size (Total R(2) = .13, p = .027, β = -.22). Temperament predicted heightened risk for adult anxiety when adolescent social involvement was low (p = .002, β = .43), but not when adolescent social involvement was high.


Stable behavioral inhibition throughout early childhood is a risk factor for adult anxiety disorders and interacts with adolescent social involvement to moderate risk. This is the first study to demonstrate the critical role of adolescent involvement in socially active networks in moderating long-lasting temperamental risk over the course of two decades, thus informing prevention/intervention approaches.


Child temperament; adolescence; adult psychopathology; anxiety; social networks

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