Demographic and Socioeconomic Predictors of Behavioral Trajectories from Age 3 to 15: A Longitudinal Mixed Effects Approach

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Journal of Child and Family Studies

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Socioeconomically disadvantaged children face elevated risk for behavior problems. Greater understanding of the relationships between a range of socioeconomic factors and behavioral trajectories across childhood is needed to improve prevention efforts. The present study leveraged a large longitudinal survey to examine how gender, race, household socioeconomic status, and home environment influence behavior from early childhood to adolescence. Multivariate imputation by chained equations maximized available data across 12 years. Linear mixed effects models compared behavioral trajectories by gender, as well as the longitudinal effects of socioeconomic status on internalizing and externalizing behavior problems accounting for within- and between-child differences from age 3 to 15. Results indicated declines in both internalizing and externalizing scores over time. On average, boys displayed higher initial scores, but more rapid declines; by age 15, boys scored substantially lower than girls on internalizing problems, while externalizing scores were similar for both genders. Household income (beta(Internalizing) = -0.02; beta(Externalizing) = -0.01) and higher quality interior home environment (beta(Internalizing) = -0.43; beta(Externalizing) = -0.60) both protected against behavioral problems while perceived material hardship and exterior home environment had no effects. Gender moderated the effects of race and the interior environment on externalizing problems. Findings suggest unique developmental trajectories by gender whereby girls display more persistent internalizing problems and African American boys face highest risk for externalizing problems. Children in socioeconomically disadvantaged families face elevated risk for behavior problems, but the home environment remains an opportunity for prevention.


Child behavior; Gender; Home environment; Families; Mixed effects models; Longitudinal models


Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Work



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