School dropout can be an ongoing process of academic failure and disengagement starting as early as elementary school. Given the multitude of factors involved and the importance of early identification of vulnerabilities, this study examined whether (a) initial levels of conduct problems and depressive symptoms predicted school dropout, (b) the rate of change in conduct problems and depressive symptoms predicted dropout, (c) the interaction between trajectories of conduct problems and depressive symptoms affected the likelihood of dropout, and (d) whether there were sex differences in these associations. Using a dataset of 364 children ages 6–9 (T1) years who had displayed conduct problems, mean trajectories of conduct problems and depressive symptoms over 6 years were drawn using parallel process latent growth curve modeling. Results showed that both the initial levels of and rate of change in conduct problems predicted dropout, whereas trajectories of depressive symptoms did not. The interaction between trajectories of conduct problems and depressive symptoms was non-significant and sex differences were not observed. These results suggest that, for boys and girls presenting early conduct problems, although a higher initial levels of conduct problems increases the risk of school dropout, a larger decrease in these problems over time may reduce this likelihood. Recognizing and treating conduct problems consistently may be crucial in reducing the risk of dropout in children with early-onset issues.

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