Disruptive behaviour, avoidance of responsibility and theory of mind


Department of Psychology, Glasgow Caledonian University, City Campus, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow, G4 0BA, UK (e-mail: J.M.Sutton@ gcal.ac.uk).


Powell, Rosen, and Huff (1997) found a strong relationship between avoidance of responsibility and Disruptive Behaviour Disorder (DBD) symptomology in a sample of undergraduate students. Focusing on children with conduct disorder, Happe and Frith (1996) offered an alternative association in terms of a theory of mind impairment. However, no such deficiency was found using first-order false belief tasks. This study assessed the links between disruptive behaviour, avoidance of responsibility and a more advanced test of theory of mind (Baron-Cohen, Jolliffe, Mortimore, & Robertson, 1997) in a sample of 81 children aged 11-13 years. Factor analysis of the Avoidance of Responsibility Scale (Powell et al., 1997) with this younger sample revealed three main factors: victim justification, shifting blame, and denial/lack of remorse. DBD was only associated with the shifting blame factor, indicating that DBD may be predominantly related to an avoidance of responsibility that involves transfer onto another person. Although theory of mind performance was not linked to DBD, it was positively correlated with the denial/lack of remorse factor. Results are discussed in terms of current theories of DBD and further research in the area.