Conduct problems, perceived school difficulties, and peer problems in adolescence: a vulnerability-stress perspective


  • J. Minkkinen
  • R. Hotulainen
  • A. Rimpelä


Background: Increasing conduct problems (CP) during adolescence comprise a cause of societal concern. We studied CP trajectory between the ages of 13 and 18. Following a vulnerability-stress perspective our aim was to explore the role of school work difficulties (SWD) and peer problems (PP) in the development of CP controlling for vulnerability factors of low cognitive competence (CC) and low prosociality (PR). Methods: Finnish adolescents (N=2,074) participated in longitudinal survey in the Helsinki metropolitan area 2011–2016. The data covered three time points in the age of 13 (T1), 16 (T2), and 18 (T3). CP, PP and PR were self-assessed through SDQ’s subscales, SWD using eight-item indicator (α=0,94) and CC using learning-to-learn assessment. Cross-lagged path model and moderation modelling were conducted. Findings: CP increased from T1 (M=1,66, SD=1,48) to T2 (M=1,86, SD=1,70) and decreased in T3 (M=1,62, SD=1,56). When controlling CP in T1 and T2, SWD and lower PR in T2 predicted CP in T3 (both p=0,000). Several mediation paths were detected from SWD, PR and CC in T1 to CP in T3 via CP, SWD and PR in T2 (total indirect, all p≤0,001). PP had no straight nor mediative effects on CP in T3 but had interactions with CC and SWD on CP in T3 (p<0,05–0,01). Discussion: CP trajectories in adolescence are affected by difficulties in school work and peer relationships. More support for adolescents with these problems may benefit for their healthy mental development from early adolescence to young adulthood.





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