Background: Children's early problem behavior that manifests in multiple contexts is often more serious and stable. The concurrent and predictive validity of ratings of externalizing and internalizing by four informants was examined at preschool and early school age in an at-risk sample.
Methods: Two hundred forty children were assessed by mothers and fathers (Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL)), and teachers and laboratory examiners (Teacher Report Form (TRF)) at ages 3 and 5 years.
Results: All informants’ ratings of externalizing converged on a common factor at ages 3 and 5 that showed strong stability over time (β = .80). All informants’ age 3 externalizing ratings significantly predicted the problem factor at age 5; mothers’, fathers’, and teachers’ ratings were independently predictive. Ratings of internalizing (except by examiners at age 3) also converged at both ages; the problem factor showed medium stability (β = .39) over time. Only fathers’ ratings of age 3 internalizing predicted the age 5 problem factor.
Conclusions: Findings support the value of multi-informant assessment, uphold calls to include fathers in childhood research, and suggest that examiners provide valid, though non-unique assessment data. Examiner contributions may prove useful in many research contexts.