Publication Date

2016

Abstract

Are internalizing and externalizing behaviour problems interrelated via mutually reinforcing relationships (with each behavior leading to increases over time in levels of the other behavior) or mutually suppressing relationships (with each behavior leading to decreases over time in levels of the other behavior)? Past research on the directionality of these relationships has led to ambiguous results, particularly in adolescence. Furthermore, the extent to which prior results will generalize to adolescents with low levels of cognitive abilities remains unknown. This second limit is particularly important, given that these adolescents are known to present higher levels of externalizing and internalizing behaviors than their peers with average-to-high levels of cognitive abilities, and that the mechanisms involved in the reciprocal relationships between these two types of behaviors may differ across both populations. This study examines the directionality of the longitudinal relationships between externalizing and internalizing behaviour problems as rated by teachers across three measurement waves (corresponding to Grades 8–10) in matched samples of 138 adolescents (34.78% girls) with low levels of cognitive abilities and 556 adolescents (44.88% girls) with average-to-high levels of cognitive abilities. The results showed that the measurement structure was fully equivalent across time periods and groups of adolescents, revealing high levels of developmental stability in both types of problems, and moderately high levels of cross-sectional associations. Levels of both internalizing and externalizing behaviors were higher among adolescents with low levels of cognitive abilities relative to those with average-to-high levels of cognitive abilities. Finally, the predictive analyses revealed negative reciprocal longitudinal relationships (i.e., mutually suppressing relationships) between externalizing and internalizing problems, a result that was replicated within samples of adolescents with low, and average-to high levels of cognitive ability.

School/Institute

Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

Document Type

Journal Article

Access Rights

ERA Access

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