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Keywords:

  • Reading delays;
  • reading disabilities;
  • conduct problems;
  • longitudinal study

The relationships between early reading difficulties and later conduct problems were examined in a birth cohort of New Zealand children studied from the point of school entry to the age of 16. Children with early reading difficulties had increased rates of conduct problems up to the age of 16 years. These associations depended on context, being more evident for boys and tending to reduce with increasing age. However, the associations between early reading difficulties and later conduct problems were explained by the fact that children with early reading difficulties tended to be characterised by a number of disadvantageous features (and notably early-onset conduct problems) that were present before the onset of reading difficulties. When the associations between reading difficulties and conduct problems were adjusted for confounding factors there were no statistically significant associations between reading difficulties and conduct problems. These results were found to hold for various age and gender subgroups of the sample, for measures of reading difficulties defined in different ways, and for a wide range of outcome variables. It is concluded that, when due allowance is made for potentially confounding factors (and notably early conduct problems) and for factors correlated with these problems, it is unlikely that reading difficulties in early childhood are related to later conduct problems.