Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program




Major Professor

Frick, Paul

Second Advisor

LaHoste, Gerald

Third Advisor

Stamps, Leighton E.

Fourth Advisor

Williams-Brewer, Mary

Fifth Advisor

Cruise, Keith R.


In an attempt to understand girls' involvement conduct problems, this dissertation first reviews two existing theoretical approaches that provide an explanation for the development of conduct problems. Specifically, the available literature on the development and correlates of conduct problems in boys suggests the subtypes of conduct disorder represent two developmental trajectories. The adolescent-onset pathway is associated with deviant peers and few characterological problems, where as the childhood-onset pathway is associated with emotion regulation deficits, negative parenting, callous and unemotional traits, and neurological deficits. Research also suggests a gender-specific model, the delayed-onset model, for the development of conduct problems in girls. Following this theoretical review, differential predictions made by the competing theoretical models are tested in a community sample of school-aged girls and boys. Participants were 202 children (87 males and 115 females) in grades 5-9. The students ranged in age from 10 to 17 years old (M = 13.16). Similar to the total student body, the ethnic breakdown of the sample was as follows: African-American (60%), Caucasian (24%), Hispanic (6%), and Other (5%). Data was also collected from the students' parents and teachers. Results indicated that girls conduct problems did not follow either model in a consistent manner. Specifically, adolescent-onset conduct problem girls, childhood-onset conduct problem boys, and adolescentonset conduct problem boys differed from non-conduct problem children but did not differ significantly amongst themselves on study variables (e.g., deviant peer association, hyperactivity/impulsivity, emotional dysregulation, callous/unemotional traits). However, results suggest that gender-specific risk factors should be taken into account when developing theoretical models for girls' conduct problems. For example, early pubertal maturation is a particularly salient risk factor for conduct problems in girls, and pubertal development interacts with emotion regulation problems to place girls at high risk for deviant behavior. Finally, implications for prevention and intervention as well as future research are discussed.


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