Course of disinhibited social engagement behavior in clinically referred home-reared preschool children

Frederike Y. Scheper, Ceciel R.M. Groot, Annelou L.C. de Vries, Theodorus A.H. Doreleijers, Lucres M.C. Jansen, Carlo Schuengel

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5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Evidence supporting clinical relevance and persistence of disinhibited social engagement behavior (DSEB) pertains mostly to children reared in institutions and foster care. This study examined the course of DSEB in clinically referred home-reared children from early into middle childhood, and associations with neglect/emotional maltreatment, effortful control, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Methods: Disinhibited social engagement behavior was examined in 124 children (82% boys, M = 4.06 years, SD = 0.89), referred for treatment of emotional and behavioral problems, by use of the Disturbances of Attachment Interview (DAI) with biological parents. Neglect and emotional maltreatment were assessed from case records and effortful control by use of the Child Behavior Questionnaire. At follow-up, on average 4 years later, DSEB was examined by use of DAI as well as two observational ratings: the Stranger at the Door procedure (SatD) and a structured home observation of stranger approach. Psychiatric disorders were assessed by means of the Kiddie-Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia. Results: Persistence of parent-reported DSEB was found in 57% (n = 27) of the children with DSEB at baseline (n = 47). Parent-reported DSEB at follow-up was significantly related to DSEB observed in the SatD (r pb  =.31, p =.001) and to observed stranger approach (r s  =.41, p <.001), but only stranger approach was associated with baseline DSEB. The course of DSEB was not related to neglect/emotional maltreatment, nor to the level of effortful control. There was no association between DSEB and Autism Spectrum Disorder, but course of DSEB was associated with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder/Oppositional Defiant Disorder at follow-up (χ 2  = 13.08, p =.004). Conclusions: Although explanations for the onset and course of DSEB in home-reared children remain elusive, findings suggest that DSEB is part of a complex of clinically significant problem behaviors in referred home-reared preschool children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-565
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number5
Early online date17 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Disinhibited social engagement
  • attachment
  • home-reared
  • longitudinal
  • preschool

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