The British Journal of Psychiatry
Developmental pathways from childhood conduct problems to early adult depression: findings from the ALSPAC cohort
Argyris Stringaris, Glyn Lewis, Barbara Maughan
  • Declaration of interest




Pathways from early-life conduct problems to young adult depression remain poorly understood.


To test developmental pathways from early-life conduct problems to depression at age 18.


Data (n = 3542) came from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Previously derived conduct problem trajectories (ages 4-13 years) were used to examine associations with depression from ages 10 to 18 years, and the role of early childhood factors as potential confounders.


Over 43% of young adults with depression in the ALSPAC cohort had a history of child or adolescent conduct problems, yielding a population attributable fraction of 0.15 (95% CI 0.08-0.22). The association between conduct problems and depression at age 18 was considerable even after adjusting for prior depression (odds ratio 1.55, 95% CI 1.24-1.94). Early-onset persistent conduct problems carried the highest risk for later depression. Irritability characterised depression for those with a history of conduct problems.


Early-life conduct problems are robustly associated with later depressive disorder and may be useful targets for early intervention.


  • Funding

    This research was specifically funded by the UK Medical Research Council (Grant ref: G0500953, BM) and the Wellcome Trust (Grant ref: WT084268MA, GL). A.S. gratefully acknowledges the support of the Wellcome Trust.

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