8-Year Course of Behavioral/Emotional Problems Among Brazilian Children

Longitudinal studies have revealed similar levels of continuity in behavioral/emotional problems reported for children in several economically developed countries. However, less is known about the continuity of behavioral/emotional problems among children in developing countries.

The Brazilian Birth Cohort Study has provided one of the few tests of the continuity of behavioral/emotional problems reported for children in a developing country (Anselmi et al., 2008). Starting with a birth cohort in the southern Brazilian city of Pelotas, the study included assessment of 601 children with the CBCL at ages 4 and 12 years. The very low attrition from the initial sample of 634 was accounted for mainly by moves to remote areas without telephone access. A variety of analyses like those done in Dutch and U.S. longitudinal studies revealed predictive correlations and stability of deviant scale scores very similar to those found in the Dutch and U.S. cohorts. Predictive correlations over the 8 years were highest for Total Problems (r = .42), Externalizing (r = .42), Aggressive Behavior (r = .39), and Attention Problems (r = .37).

In logistic regression analyses, deviant age 12 Total Problems scores were significantly predicted by age 4 Rule-Breaking Behavior and Social Problems scores. Deviant age 12 Internalizing scores were significantly predicted by age 4 Somatic Complaints, Aggressive Behavior, and socioeconomic status (SES). Age 4 Rule Breaking Behavior scores also significantly predicted deviant age 12 Thought Problems, Attention Problems, Rule-Breaking Behavior, and Aggressive Behavior scores. Interestingly, age 4 Thought Problems scores were strong predictors of deviant age 12 scores on both the Withdrawn and Thought Problems syndromes. The authors concluded that “The results are quite similar for continuity, stability and predictability compared to those found in developed countries, challenging the previous notion that living in a developing country might determine a worse developmental course of behavioral and emotional problems” (p. 505).

Reference: Anselmi, L., Barros, F.C., Teodoro, M.L.M., Piccinini, C.A., Menezes, A.M.B., Araujo, C.L, & Rhode, L.A. (2008). Continuity of behavioral and emotional problems from pre-school years to pre-adolescence in a developing country. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 49, 499-507.