Sex differences in conduct and emotional outcomes for young people with hyperactive/inattentive traits and social communication difficulties between 9 and 16 years of age: A growth curve analysis

Jack Hollingdale, Emma Woodhouse, Susan Young, Gisli Gudjonsson, Tony Charman, Will Mandy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background The purpose of this paper is to identify the trajectory of conduct and emotional problems for young people within the general population at four time points (between 9 years 7 months and 16 years 6 months), investigate their relationship with hyperactive/inattentive traits and explore the moderating effect of autistic social traits (ASTs). Methods Data from 9305 individuals involved in The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) study were included. Conduct and emotional problems and hyperactive/inattentive traits were measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. ASTs were assessed using the Social Communication Disorder Checklist. Individual trajectories for conduct and emotional problems were identified via growth curve modelling. Hyperactive/inattentive traits were included within the growth curve model as a time-varying covariate to determine their effect on these outcomes. Finally, participants were split into two groups (below and above clinical threshold ASTs Groups) and multi-group invariance testing was conducted on the data to identify the moderating effect of ASTs on the relationship between hyperactive/inattentive traits and outcomes (i.e. conduct and emotional problems). Results Hyperactive/inattentive traits were associated with higher rates of conduct and emotional problems for both boys and girls. The presence of ASTs moderated these relationships for boys, but not for girls, by increasing the risk of boys with hyperactive/inattentive traits developing greater conduct and emotional problems. Conclusions These findings underscore the importance of identifying hyperactive/inattentive traits and ASTs in young people and addressing the increased risk of conduct and emotional problems. Research and clinical implications are explored.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4539-4549
Number of pages11
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2023


  • Adolescence
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • children
  • conduct problems
  • emotional problems
  • social communication difficulties
  • young people

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