Do aggression and rule-breaking have different interpersonal correlates? A study of antisocial behavior subtypes, negative affect, and hostile perceptions of others

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Abstract

There is mounting evidence that physical aggression and nonaggressive, rule-breaking delinquency constitute two separable though correlated subtypes of antisocial behavior. Even so, it remains unclear whether these behavioral subtypes have meaningfully different interpersonal correlates, particularly as they are subsumed within the same broad domain of antisocial behavior. To evaluate this, we examined whether hostile perceptions of others (assessed via exposure to a series of neutral unknown faces) were linked to level and type of antisocial behavior aggression vs. rule-breaking, and moreover, whether this association persisted even when also considering the common association with negative affect (as manipulated via written recollection of one's best and worst life experiences). Analyses revealed that aggression, but not rule-breaking, was uniquely tied to hostile perceptions of others. Furthermore, this association persisted over and above the common association of both hostile perceptions and aggression with negative affect (at both trait and state levels). Such results provide additional support for clinically meaningful differences between the behavioral subtypes of aggression and nonaggressive rule-breaking and for the independent role of hostile perceptions in aggressive behavior. Aggr. Behav. 35:453–461, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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