Age-of-Onset Classification of Conduct Disorder: Reliability and Validity in a Prospective Cohort Study
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OBJECTIVE: To test in a prospective clinical cohort study the reliability and validity of the age-of-onset subtyping of conduct disorder. METHOD: Participants were adolescents referred to psychiatric clinics who met DSM-III-R criteria for conduct disorder by structured diagnostic interview. Age of onset was the reported age of the first conduct disorder symptom. The reliability of age-of-onset report was tested by assessing agreement within informant on interviews 2 to 4 weeks apart. Age-of-onset groups were compared within informant on rates of correlates and symptom and social functioning outcomes over a period of 3 years. RESULTS: The reliability of age-of-onset report was low (kappa of 0.1 and 0.4 by adolescent and parent informant, respectively). Although the early-onset group had elevated rates of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, family disadvantage, and aggressive and nonaggressive antisocial behaviors at inclusion, growth curve analysis showed that age-of-onset subtyping had no predictive validity. CONCLUSIONS: The reliability of ascertainment of age of onset of antisocial behavior requires further study. While age-of-onset subtyping has heuristic value with respect to the study of the causal pathways to conduct disorder, it is premature to use this system in clinic settings.
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