Negative events in childhood predict trajectories of internalizing symptoms up to young adulthood: An 18-year longitudinal study

Maria Melchior, Évelyne Touchette, Elena Prokofyeva, Aude Chollet, Eric Fombonne, Gulizar Elidemir, Cédric Galéra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: Common negative events can precipitate the onset of internalizing symptoms. We studied whether their occurrence in childhood is associated with mental health trajectories over the course of development. Methods: Using data from the TEMPO study, a French community-based cohort study of youths, we studied the association between negative events in 1991 (when participants were aged 4-16 years) and internalizing symptoms, assessed by the ASEBA family of instruments in 1991, 1999, and 2009 (n=1503). Participants' trajectories of internalizing symptoms were estimated with semi-parametric regression methods (PROC TRAJ). Data were analyzed using multinomial regression models controlled for participants' sex, age, parental family status, socio-economic position, and parental history of depression. Results: Negative childhood events were associated with an increased likelihood of concurrent internalizing symptoms which sometimes persisted into adulthood (multivariate ORs associated with >=53 negative events respectively: high and decreasing internalizing symptoms: 5.54, 95% CI: 3.20-9.58; persistently high internalizing symptoms: 8.94, 95% CI: 2.82-28.31). Specific negative events most strongly associated with youths' persistent internalizing symptoms included: school difficulties (multivariate OR: 5.31, 95% CI: 2.24-12.59), parental stress (multivariate OR: 4.69, 95% CI: 2.02-10.87), serious illness/health problems (multivariate OR: 4.13, 95% CI: 1.76-9.70), and social isolation (multivariate OR: 2.24, 95% CI: 1.00-5.08). Conclusions: Common negative events can contribute to the onset of children's lasting psychological difficulties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere114526
JournalPloS one
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 8 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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