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May

Are antisocial youths cognitively impaired?

MAY 16, 2007

Dr Edward Barker at the Institute of Psychiatry, at King's and collaborative colleagues at the Universities of Montreal and Rutgers have published an article in the May edition of the Archives of Psychiatry that has examined the development of violent and non-violent antisocial behavior children and adolescents

This international research team led by Dr Barker examined the development of physical violence and theft in a community sample of 698 males between the ages of 12 and 31.  The researchers also examined how these behaviours relate to intellectual functioning in late adolescence/early adulthood.

Developmentally, only 1 in 10 men (13%) increased in physical violence during adolescence, whereas 1 in 2 men (55%) increased in theft during the same period. Researchers also found that increasing violence was related to low intellectual abilities whereas increasing theft was related to high intellectual abilities.

However, traditional clinical approaches classify violent and non-violent antisocial behaviors into the same category. Conduct disorder essentially covers four different groupings of antisocial behavior: violence towards people and animals, deceitfulness and theft, destruction of property, and serious violations of rules.

The researchers believe their results support the groupings already defined by DSM (e.g., physical violence and theft). However, they also believe CD diagnoses should adjust the current subtypes (i.e., adolescence limited and early onset) to take into account the different developmental patterns of violent and non-violent antisocial behavior. They also believe that developmental research should make this violence versus theft behavioral distinction instead of considering conduct disorder as a homogeneous diagnosis.
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