Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program




Major Professor

Frick, Paul J.

Second Advisor

Weems, Carl

Third Advisor

Stamps, Leighton

Fourth Advisor

Williams-Brewer, Mary

Fifth Advisor

Cruise, Keith R.


This study tests the predictions made by several causal theories proposing different etiologies for childhood-onset and adolescent-onset conduct problems. It investigates a variety of causal factors proven to be important for the development of antisocial behaviors, specifically neuropsychological/cognitive deficits, temperamental vulnerabilities, dysfunctional parenting, deviant peers, and rebelliousness. Current theories generally agree that the early onset pathway is distinguished by interactions between a child with a difficult temperament and dysfunctional parent-child interactions. However, theories differ as to whether they emphasize the temperament and neurocognitive deficits of the child, or the parenting behaviors. In the adolescent onset pathway, theories typically focus on the importance of affiliation with deviant peers but differ as to whether this is attributed to a personality characterized by the rejection of traditional values and rebelliousness as leading to this association or failures in parenting practices. Seventy-eight pre-adjudicated adolescent (ranging in age from 11 to 18) boys housed in two short-term detention facilities and one outpatient program for boys at risk for involvement in the juvenile justice system in southeastern Louisiana participated in the current study. The sample was ethnically diverse (56% African-American) and largely came from facilities serving either a large urban or a largely suburban and rural region of the state. The sample was divided into two groups based on the youngest age of a self-reported delinquent act or parent-reported severe conduct problem. The childhoodonset group (n =47) displayed at least one serious antisocial behavior prior to age 12, whereas the adolescent-onset group (n =31) did not. As predicted, the childhood-onset group showed greater levels of dysfunctional parenting and CU traits. Contrary to predictions, however, this group also showed the strongest affiliation with deviant peers. The only variable strongly associated with the adolescent onset group was lower scores on a measure of traditionalism which indicates less endorsement of traditional values and status hierarchies. The implications of these results for understanding different causal trajectories to antisocial behavior and for designing better prevention and treatment programs for antisocial youth are discussed.


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