The Christchurch Health and Development Study: review of findings on child and adolescent mental health


  • David M. Fergusson ,

  • L. John Horwood

David M.Fergusson, Executive Director (Correspondence); L. John Horwood, Senior Research Fellow, Christchurch Health and Development Study, Christchurch School of Medicine, PO Box 4345, Christchurch, New Zealand. Email:


Objective: This paper provides an overview of the Christchurch Health and Development Study (CHDS) and a summary of findings relating to child and adolescent mental health.

Method: The CHDS is a longitudinal study of a birth cohort of 1265 children born in the Christchurch (New Zealand) urban region during mid 1977. This cohort has now been studied from birth to age 21.

Results: The paper examines the ways in which the study has been able to examine a wide range of issues. Key issues examined include: (i) measurement of disorder (respondent effects; dimensionality; scales vs categories); (ii) prevalence and treatment of disorder; (iii) stability and continuity of disorders; (iv) the contribution of risk and aetiological factors (e.g. lead exposure, parental divorce, child abuse, family adversity, sexual orientation) to psychosocial adjustment; and (v) the psychosocial consequences of mental health problems in adolescence.

Conclusions: The study findings illustrate the many advantages of a longitudinal study, such as the CHDS, in providing methodologically sound, theoretically relevant and cost effective research that caters for the interests of multiple end-users including the scientific community, clinicians and applied policy makers.