Behavior Problems in Preschool Children

Developmental and Family Issues
  • Susan B. Campbell
Part of the Advances in Clinical Child Psychology book series (ACCP, volume 19)


It has been shown that serious problems with aggression and impulse control that are apparent by the preschool years are relatively stable and often persist to school entry and beyond (for a review, see Campbell, 1995). However, not all children with early-appearing problems continue to have difficulties. Roughly half the children identified with problems by preschool age will continue on a path toward externalizing problems, but the other half will improve with development. These data are based on several prospective studies of problem preschoolers followed from ages 3–4 to early elementary school age (Campbell, 1994; Campbell, Ewing, Breaux, & Szumowski, 1986; Richman, Stevenson, & Graham, 1982). This indicates that identifying a young child as problematic at one point in time is not useful, in and of itself, in predicting outcome. Although problem behavior is somewhat stable, increasing the relative risk of a child developing a diagnosable disorder by school age, difficult behavior, such as tantrums, noncompliance, overactivity, or difficulty with peers may be an indicator of emerging behavior problems or an age-appropriate, short-lived manifestation of stress. Thus, there appear to be different developmental pathways: Some children with early-onset problems outgrow their difficulties; others have difficulties that either stabilize or worsen with development; still other children do not show problems in the preschool period but develop problems by school entry, middle childhood or even early adolescence. What accounts for these different developmental pathways?


Preschool Child Stressful Life Event Maternal Depression Teacher Rating Marital Conflict 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan B. Campbell
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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