OBJECTIVE: This prospective longitudinal study investigated the simultaneous impact of early biological and psychosocial risk factors on behavioral outcome at school age. METHOD: A cohort of 362 children born between 1986 and 1988 with different biological (perinatal insults) and psychosocial risk factors (family adversity) was followed from birth to school age. When their children were aged 8 years, parents of 89.0% of the initial sample completed the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). RESULTS: More externalizing as well as internalizing problems were found in children born into adverse family backgrounds, whereas no differences at broad-band syndrome level were apparent between groups with varying obstetric complications. Children with family risk factors had higher scores on 5 of the 8 CBCL scales (including attention, delinquent, and aggressive problems), whereas children with perinatal risk factors had more social and attention problems than children in the nonrisk groups. With one exception, no interactions between risk factors emerged, indicating that perinatal and family risk factors contributed independently to outcome. The differences between risk groups applied irrespective of gender. CONCLUSIONS: The adverse impact of family adversity clearly outweighed the influence of obstetric complications in determining behavioral adjustment at school age.
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