Trajectories of dysregulation in preschool age

Jette Asmussen*, Anne Mette Skovgaard, Niels Bilenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Dysregulation of emotions, behaviour and attention is involved in several areas of childhood psychopathology, but knowledge about early developmental trajectories remains scarce. This study aims to explore continuity and associations of dysregulation in preschool age. Dysregulation was measured at age 2½ years and again at 5 years in a community-based birth cohort of 1099 children using the Child Behavior Checklist, preschool version (CBCL1½–5), answered by mothers. Based on the Dysregulation Profile (CBCL-DP) score, we defined four trajectory groups, using the 75th percentile from the Danish norm material as a cut-off. Associations between the four CBCL-DP trajectory groups and potential covariates, including child, parental and family factors, were analysed using univariate and multiple multinomial logistic regression. Nearly half (54%) of the children showed persistent low scores of CBCL-DP, 17% displayed continuing dysregulation problems, 13% had problems that increased from 2½ years to 5 years, whereas 16% of the children showed reduced problems across preschool age. Persistent dysregulation was associated with maternal postpartum depressive symptoms RRR = 2.20 (95% CI 1.29–3.75), low maternal educational level RRR = 1.69 (95% CI 1.08–2.66), and mothers’ smoking during pregnancy RRR = 2.87 (95% CI 1.09–7.55). Persistent problems of emotional, behavioural and attention regulation in children aged 2½ years to 5 years is influenced by maternal educational level and post-partum depression symptoms. The study draws clinical attention to early symptoms of dysregulation and to the importance of addressing the specific needs of mentally vulnerable parents in intervention planning.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Jan 2021


  • CBCL1½–5
  • Dysregulation
  • PPD (maternal postpartum depression)
  • Preschool
  • Trajectory


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