The Role of Impulsiveness in Aggression and Commonly Co-occurring Disorders Among Youthful Offenders

Ernest Barratt, University of Texas Medical Branch

A general aim of this exploratory research was to clarify the relationship of impulsiveness to aggressive/violent acts (AN) committed by adolescents. The target population was Youthful Offenders (YOs) who were incarcerated in a prison for adult offenders. The YOs were compared to matched non-inmate adolescents. Impulsiveness has been implicated as a risk factor among adolescents for AV acts and also for cooccurring disorders including ADHD, substance abuse, and conduct disorders. All of the YOs met the criteria for a conduct disorder. This research was based on a dimensional model of impulsiveness which includes in addition to global impulsiveness (IT) three subdimensions: 1) motor (1m); 2) attentional (IA); 3) non-planning (INp). The impulsiveness dimensions are mulidisciplinary in nature and are defined by biological, social, self-report and behavioral measures. A general thesis of this study was that impulsiveness is a significant part of the underlying biological and social substrates of AV acts and the often aforementioned co-occurring disorders. AV acts as criterion measures were classified as impulsive; premeditated; medically related; can't clarify; mixed. This classification is based on our research with inmates and outpatients. The results indicate that: IT was significantly higher among YOs than controls; 2) different subdimensions of impulsiveness were related to different classes of aggression; for example, Im was significantly related to impulsive aggressive acts but INp and IA were not; 3) YOs who were murderers had significantly higher IT scores than other YOs and Im added significantly to discriminatirig between murderers and other YOs in a discriminate function analysis.

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Updated 05/20/2006