Disruptive behaviour disorders: a systematic review of environmental antenatal and early years risk factors

K Latimer, P Wilson, J Kemp, L Thompson, F Sim, C Gillberg, C Puckering, H Minnis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Citations (Scopus)


Disruptive behaviour disorders (DBDs), including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder (CD) are chronic disorders with significant overlap in aetiology and presentation. An integrative examination of environmental risk factors is lacking. Six literature searches of web-based bibliographic databases were completed to identify literature on DBDs in general and five disorders in particular: CD, ODD, ADHD, deficits of attention, motor control and perception, and reactive attachment disorder. Searches were filtered to focus on studies including diagnostic assessment, focussing on environmental risk and protective factors in the first 4 years of life. The database searches generated 9806 papers of which 47 were reviewed after filters had been applied. The evidence suggests links between a number of early life risk factors and DBDs, including prenatal cigarette smoking and alcohol use, prenatal viral illness, maternal stress and anxiety, low birthweight, peri-partum and early neonatal complications, parental stress and parenting styles in infancy, early deprivation, adoption and separation. Despite the understanding that there is sharing of risk factors between the DBDs, there has been a disproportionate focus on the role of certain risk factors at the expense of others and the field is weakened by difficulties in controlling for all potential confounding variables.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)611-628
Number of pages18
JournalChild: Care, Health and Development
Issue number5
Early online date28 Feb 2012
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2012


  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Anxiety
  • Anxiety, Separation
  • Attention Deficit and Disruptive Behavior Disorders
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Foster Home Care
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Parenting
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Risk Factors
  • Seasons
  • Smoking
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Disruptive Behavior Disorders
  • Early Risk Factors
  • Systematic Review


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