The neurocognition of conduct disorder behaviors: specificity to physical aggression and theft after controlling for ADHD symptoms

Authors

  • Edward D. Barker,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck College, University of London, London, United Kingdom
    • Department of Psychological Science, Birkbeck College, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX, UK
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  • Richard E. Tremblay,

    1. Research Unit on Children's Psychosocial Maladjustment, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada
    2. Ste-Justine Hospital Research Center, Montréal, Canada
    3. School of Public Health, University College Dublin, Ireland
    4. International Laboratory for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Development, INSERM U669, France
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  • Pol A.C. van Lier,

    1. Department of Developmental Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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  • Frank Vitaro,

    1. Research Unit on Children's Psychosocial Maladjustment, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada
    2. School of Psychoeducation, Université de Montréal, Québec, Canada
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  • Daniel S. Nagin,

    1. Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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  • Jean-Marc Assaad,

    1. Research Unit on Children's Psychosocial Maladjustment, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada
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  • Jean R. Séguin

    1. Research Unit on Children's Psychosocial Maladjustment, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada
    2. Ste-Justine Hospital Research Center, Montréal, Canada
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Abstract

There is growing evidence that among the different conduct disorder (CD) behaviors, physical aggression, but not theft, links to low neurocognitive abilities. Specifically, physical aggression has consistently been found to be negatively related to neurocognitive abilities, whereas theft has been shown to be either positively or not related to neurocognition. The specificity of these links needs further examination because attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) links to both physical aggression and neurocognitive variation. The development of self-reported physical aggression and theft, from age 11 to 17 years, was studied in a prospective at-risk male cohort via a dual process latent growth curve model. Seven neurocognitive tests at age 20 were regressed on the growth parameters of physical aggression and theft. The links between neurocognition and the growth parameters of physical aggression and theft were adjusted for ADHD symptoms at ages 11 and 15 (parent, child and teacher reports). Results indicated that verbal abilities were negatively related to physical aggression while they were positively associated with theft. However, inductive reasoning was negatively associated with increases in theft across adolescence. Symptoms of ADHD accounted for part of the neurocognitive test links with physical aggression but did not account for the associations with theft. These differences emphasize the importance of examining specific CD behaviors to better understand their neurodevelopmental mechanisms. They also suggest that youth who engage in different levels of physical aggression or theft behaviors may require different preventive and corrective interventions. Aggr. Behav. 37:63–72, 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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