School dropout can be an ongoing process of academic failure and disengagement starting as early as elementary school. Given the importance of early identification of risk factors, the present study examines (a) whether early conduct problems and depressive symptoms predict a higher risk of school dropout, (b) whether depressive symptoms moderate the association between conduct problems and risk of school dropout, and (c) the sex differences in these associations. Using data from a longitudinal study on 744 children aged 6–9 (T1), a multiple linear regression was performed to test for the effect of conduct problems and depressive symptoms (T1) and the interaction between them on the risk of school dropout (T8), as well as for sex differences in these associations. Results showed that conduct problems significantly predicted a higher risk of school dropout 7 years later, while depressive symptoms did not. Depressive symptoms significantly moderated the effect of conduct problems on the risk of dropout, with conduct problems having a stronger effect in children with higher depressive symptoms. No sex differences were found. These results suggest that recognizing and treating depressive symptoms in children with conduct problems may be an important step in reducing their risk of dropout.

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