Configurations of common childhood psychosocial risk factors


  • Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared.

William Copeland, Developmental Epidemiology Program, DUMC Box 3454, Durham, NC 27710, USA; Tel: 919.687.4686 ext. 294; Fax: 919.687.4737; Email:


Background:  Co-occurrence of psychosocial risk factors is commonplace, but little is known about psychiatrically-predictive configurations of psychosocial risk factors.

Methods:  Latent class analysis (LCA) was applied to 17 putative psychosocial risk factors in a representative population sample of 920 children ages 9 to 17. The resultant class structure was retested in a representative population sample of 1420 children aged 9 to 13. In each sample, the child and one parent were interviewed with the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Assessment. Concurrent psychiatric status was used to validate class membership.

Results:  LCA identified five latent classes in both samples: two low risk classes; two moderate risk classes both involving family poverty configured with various other risk factors; and a high risk class characterized by family relational dysfunction and parental risk characteristics. Of the primary sample, 48.6% were categorized as low risk, 42.8% as moderate risk, and 8.6% as high risk. Moderate risk classes differed in their prediction of disruptive and emotional disorders depending on their specific risk factor configurations. High risk youth had the highest levels of both emotional and disruptive disorders. Combining our latent classes with a cumulative risk approach best accounted for the effects of risk factors on psychopathology in our primary sample.

Conclusions:  Particular risk configurations have specific associations with psychiatric disorders. Configurational approaches are an important asset for large-scale epidemiological studies that integrate information about patterns of risk and disorders.