Latent trajectories of internalizing symptoms from preschool to school age : A multi-informant study in a high-risk sample
Recent proposals suggest early adversity sets in motion particularly chronic and neurobiologically distinct trajectories of internalizing symptoms. However, few prospective studies in high-risk samples delineate distinct trajectories of internalizing symptoms from preschool age onward. We examined trajectories in a high-risk cohort, oversampled for internalizing symptoms, several preschool risk/maintenance factors, and school-age outcomes. Parents of 325 children completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire on up to four waves of data collection from preschool (3–5 years) to school age (8–9 years) and Preschool Age Psychiatric Assessment interviews at both ages. Multi-informant data were collected on risk factors and symptoms. Growth mixture modelling identified four trajectory classes of internalizing symptoms with stable low, rising low-to-moderate, stable moderate, and stable high symptoms. Children in the stable high symptom trajectory manifested clinically relevant internalizing symptoms, mainly diagnosed with anxiety disorders/depression at preschool and school age. Trajectories differed regarding loss/separation experience, maltreatment, maternal psychopathology, temperament, and stress-hormone regulation with loss/separation, temperament, maternal psychopathology, and stress-hormone regulation (trend) significantly contributing to explained variance. At school age, trajectories continued to differ on symptoms, disorders, and impairment. Our study is among the first to show that severe early adversity may trigger a chronic and neurobiologically distinct internalizing trajectory from preschool age onward.