Early-Childhood Conduct Problems Predict Economic and Political Discontent in Adulthood: Evidence from Two Large, Longitudinal UK Cohorts

Gary Lewis

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Longstanding interest has been directed towards the etiology of socio-political attitudes. Personality traits have been posited as antecedents; however, most work addressing such links has been limited to cross-sectional study designs. The current study uses data from two large (both N>8000), longitudinal cohorts of individuals from the United Kingdom who were parent-assessed on a measure of temperament (assessing anxiety, conduct problems, and hyperactivity) at age 5 or 7, and on a range of socio-political attitudes at age 30 or 33. In both cohorts, higher levels of childhood conduct problems predicted higher levels of economic and political discontent in adulthood. These associations were still evident when controlling for sex, childhood intelligence, and parental social class. In both cohorts this pathway was partially mediated by educational attainment and achieved social class. These findings are consistent with the perspective that early-life temperament gives rise to adult political sentiment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)711-722
Number of pages12
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number5
Early online date16 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018

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