OBJECTIVE: This study sought to evaluate the existence and implications
of familial aggregation of emotional and behavioral problems of childhood
in a general population sample. METHOD: The children included in the study
were chosen with the use of a sampling technique that identified households
in which there were two or more children aged 4- 16 years living at home at
the time of the survey. Ratings on checklists of emotional and behavioral
problems were obtained from parents, teachers of children in elementary
school, and the children themselves if they were adolescents aged 12-16.
Children were classified as having problems if their scores on scales of
conduct, attention deficit, or emotional problems were in the top 10% of
the distribution of scores from any informant. RESULTS: There was evidence
for familial aggregation of these problems, particularly conduct and
emotional problems. However, this was largely derived from the parents'
reports of symptoms, not the teachers' or adolescents' reports. The degree
of familial aggregation varied according to certain sibship characteristics
and patterns of comorbidity. CONCLUSIONS: Familial aggregation of emotional
and behavioral problems does exist in a community population and is not
simply an artifact of clinic attendance.