Transactional associations between vocabulary and disruptive behaviors during the transition to formal schooling

Michelle Pinsonneault, Sophie Parent, Natalie Castellanos-Ryan, Philip David Zelazo, Jean R. Séguin, Richard E. Tremblay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigated the transactional relations between vocabulary and disruptive behaviors (DB; physical aggression and opposition/rule breaking/theft and vandalism), during the transition to formal schooling, using a community sample of 572 children. Cross-lagged panel model analyses were used to examine bidirectional relationships, comparing physical aggression to non-aggressive DB. Transactional associations between vocabulary and DB were observed, coinciding with school entry. Lower vocabulary in preschool (60mo.) was predictive of higher physical aggression scores in kindergarten. In turn, higher physical aggression in kindergarten was predictive of lower vocabulary in 1st grade. For non-aggressive DB, recurrent associations were found. Lower verbal skills in preschool (42mo.) and kindergarten predicted higher non-aggressive DB scores later in preschool and in 1st grade respectively. In turn, higher non-aggressive DB in kindergarten predicted lower vocabulary scores in 1st grade. In contrast to transactional paths from vocabulary to DB, transactional paths from DB to vocabulary observed after the transition to elementary school remained significant after controlling for comorbid hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention behaviors, suggesting these links were specific to aggressive and non-aggressive DB. Practical implications for prevention are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1529-1539
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2023


  • disruptive behaviors
  • externalizing behaviors
  • preschool
  • school transition
  • transactional associations
  • vocabulary

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.


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