Developmental Trajectories of Pediatric Obsessive–Compulsive Symptoms


Children who experience obsessive–compulsive symptoms (OCS) may be at risk for developing Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The current study aimed to investigate developmental trajectories of OCS, as well as possible predictors, within a community-based sample of children. Children (N = 1147) from the longitudinal NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD) were assessed for OCS, via the Child Behavioral Checklist – Obsessive–Compulsive Scale (OCS-8), eight times between Pre-Kindergarten (54 months; Pre-K) and High School (15 years of age; HS.) Participants were recruited within the United States and included only maternal caregivers. Preliminary analyses indicated that approximately 3% of the sample was above the diagnostic cutoff score on the OCS-8 at the High School time-point. Latent growth models tested symptom trajectories. Findings demonstrated three groups of OCS trajectories. Most children fell within a low symptomatology group (the No Peak group) with low OCS across all time points. Two additional OCS trajectories were also demonstrated: Pre-K Peak (high to low OCS across time) and HS Peak (low to high OCS across time). Both higher attention problems and greater depression/anxiety symptoms at the Pre-K time point predicted children’s membership in the Pre-K Peak or HS Peak groups compared to the No Peak group. Membership within the HS Peak group predicted a high likelihood of children’s OCS being above previously established cutoff scores for an OCD diagnosis at age 15 years. Membership within either the Pre-K Peak or No Peak groups predicted a low likelihood. This study provides new evidence for the existence of different developmental trajectories for youth with OCS. From a clinical perspective, these results may have important implications when considering the identification and early intervention of childhood OCS and OCD within the community.

Publication Title

Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology