From the child to the neighbourhood: Longitudinal ecological correlates of young adolescents’ emotional, social, conduct, and academic difficulties.


Guided by Bronfenbrenner’s (1977) ecological framework, we investigated the correlates of changes in early adolescents’ emotional, conduct, social and academic difficulties over a 2-year period of time. A representative sample of Australian early adolescents (N = 3797, 51% boys) completed questionnaires and interviews when they were age 10 (T1) and two years later at age 12 (T2). Parents also participated. Adolescents’ difficulties increased over time, but there was no difference in academic difficulties between T1 and T2. Hierarchical regression analyses showed that temperamental factors of persistence and reactivity accounted for the most unique variance in adolescents’ difficulties. Factors at each ecological level, including neighbourhood advantage, school connection, and family factors, were also uniquely associated with adolescents’ change in difficulties over time. Although ecological effects were small, the study highlights the significant unique roles that proximal and distal social contexts play in the development of difficulties.