Terrible ones? Assessment of externalizing behaviors in infancy with the Child Behavior Checklist

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This study investigated the occurrence, cross-informant agreement, 1-year stability, and context characteristics of externalizing behaviors in 12-month-old children, as compared to 24- and 36-month-olds.


In a general population sample of 786 12-month-olds, 720 24-month-olds, and 744 36-month-olds, the CBCL/1½–5 was obtained from mothers and fathers and again one year later for a subsample of 307 children. Mothers of 1,831 children also provided complete data on child, mother, and family characteristics.


Over three-fourths of the externalizing behaviors occurred in more than 10% of 12-month-olds, over one-third of the items in more than 25%. For almost all externalizing behaviors, the occurrence was significantly lower in 12-month-olds compared to 24- and 36-month-old children. Mother–father agreement and 1-year stability of externalizing behaviors in 12-month-old children were significant, but generally somewhat lower than in 24- and 36-month-olds. Context characteristics were related to externalizing behaviors in 12-month-olds as well as in older children. Some associations were less pronounced in 12-month-old children, but the overall pattern of correlates was similar across age groups.


The results of this study show that externalizing behaviors in 12-month-old children merit further research and can be assessed with the CBCL in a valid way.

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