Infant and Toddler Pathways Leading to Early Externalizing Disorders


Daniel S. Shaw, Ph.D. Elizabeth B. Owens, Ph.D.

Joyce Giovannelli, M.S. Emily B. Winslow, M.S.


Dr. Shaw, Ms. Giovannelli and Ms. Winslow are at the Department of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Owens is at the Institute of Human Development at the University of California at Berkeley. This study was supported by Grant 50907 from the NIMH to Daniel Shaw. Request for reprints should be addressed to the first author at the Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, 4015 O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA, 15260.

Revision submitted July 25, 2000


Objective: To examine pathways leading to specific types of early externalizing disorders. Methods: Longitudinal data were collected on 310 low_income, male subjects followed from infancy until age 6. Results: Support across informants was found for the importance of the caregiving environment during infancy in relation to the development of externalizing disorders at school entry. Support was also found for the significance of early child factors, but this was limited to child behavior at home. Conclusions: The results are consistent with social learning and attachment models, which suggest that severe conduct problems in early childhood are the result of deficits in the caregiving environment. Support was also found for Moffitt's hypothesis that children with the comorbid ADHD_ODD/CD pattern experience multiple child and psychosocial risk factors that begin during infancy.

Key words: externalizing problems, infancy, preschool children, parenting.