Profiles of Disruptive Behavior Across Early Childhood: Contributions of Frustration Reactivity, Physiological Regulation, and Maternal Behavior


  • This study was a dissertation project completed by the first author at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Support for this research was provided by a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) B/START award (MH 55625) and an NIMH FIRST award (MH 55584) to S.D.C., an NIMH grant (MH 58144) to S.D.C. and S.P.K., and an National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD 007376) predoctoral fellowship from the Center for Developmental Science to the first author. The authors would like to thank Daniel J. Bauer for his statistical consultation and Louise Berdan, Lauren Davis, Jessica Dollar, Keke Grady, Susan Owens, Cynthia Smith, and Michelle Felt for their help with data collection and coding. The authors also thank the families who generously gave their time to participate in the study.

concerning this article should be addressed to Susan D. Calkins, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Room 164C Stone Building, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, P.O. Box 26170, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170. Electronic mail may be sent to


Disruptive behavior, including aggression, defiance, and temper tantrums, typically peaks in early toddlerhood and decreases by school entry; however, some children do not show this normative decline. The current study examined disruptive behavior in 318 boys and girls at 2, 4, and 5 years of age and frustration reactivity, physiological regulation, and maternal behavior in the laboratory at 2 years of age. A latent profile analysis resulted in 4 longitudinal profiles of disruptive behavior, which were differentiated by interactions between reactivity, regulation, and maternal behavior. A high profile was associated with high reactivity combined with high maternal control or low regulation combined with low maternal control. Results are discussed from a developmental psychopathology perspective.