To examine profiles of infant regulatory behaviors and associated family characteristics in a community sample of 12-month-old infants and mental health difficulties at 5 and 11 years of age.
Items relating to demographic characteristics, maternal distress, and infant regulation were completed by 1759 mothers when their infants were 8 to 12 months old. The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire was completed by mothers at child ages 5 (n = 1002) and 11 (n = 871) years.
Analyses revealed 5 profiles ranging from the most settled infants (36.8%) to those with mainly sleep problems (25.4%), isolated mild-to-moderate tantrums (21.3%), complex regulatory difficulties (13.2%), and complex and severe regulatory difficulties (3.4%). Compared with those in the settled profile, children in the moderately unsettled profile were more likely to score in the clinical range for total difficulties at 11 years of age (odds ratio [OR] 2.85; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.28 to 6.36; P < .01), and children in the severely unsettled profile were more likely to score in the clinical range at 5 (OR 9.35; 95% CI: 2.49 to 35.11; P < .01) and 11 years of age (OR 10.37; 95% CI: 3.74 to 28.70; P < .01).
Infants with multiple moderate-to-severe regulatory problems experience substantially heightened odds of clinically significant mental health concerns during childhood, and these symptoms appear to worsen over time. Clinicians must inquire about the extent, complexity, and severity of infant regulatory problems to identify those in the most urgent need of intervention and support.