Ten-year trends in adolescents’ self-reported emotional and behavioral problems in the Netherlands.


Changes in social, cultural, economic, and governmental systems over time may affect adolescents’ development. The present study examined 10-year trends in self-reported emotional and behavioral problems among 11- to 16-year-old adolescents in the Netherlands. In addition, gender (girls versus boys), ethnic (Dutch versus non western) and educational (vocational versus academic) differences in these trends were examined. By means of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, trends in emotional and behavioral problems were studied in adolescents belonging to one of five independent population representative samples (2003: n = 6,904; 2005: n = 5,183; 2007: n = 6,228; 2009: n = 5,559; 2013: n = 5,478). Structural equation models indicated rather stable levels of emotional and behavioral problems over time. Whereas some small changes were found between different time points, these changes did not represent consistent changes in problem levels. Similarly, gender, ethnic and educational differences in self-reported problems on each time point were highly comparable, indicating stable mental health inequalities between groups of adolescents over time. Future internationally comparative studies using multiple measurement moments are needed to monitor whether these persistent mental health inequalities hold over extended periods of time and in different countries.