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Title: A multidisciplinary approach to predicting aggression in children, adolescents, and adults : exploring the role of cardiovascular psychophysiology, neuropsychology, and psychopathy
Author: Thomson, Nicholas David
ISNI:       0000 0004 5993 916X
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis explored the function of biological, personality, and cognitive factors as predictors of violence and aggression in children, adolescents, and adults. Chapter 2 sought to understand biopsychosocial profiles of aggressive groups of children (N = 110). Children who engaged in more severe forms of aggressive behavior were highest in psychopathic traits, and most distinct from other aggressive and nonaggressive children on biological indices of prefrontal functioning. This group of children displayed fewer executive functioning deficits compared to other aggressive children, which may explain their ability to implement planned aggression. Chapter 3 included 60 adolescents from Emotional and Behavioral Difficulties (EBD) schools and 62 adolescents from a stratified community school sample (N = 696). The aim was to test the association between callous-unemotional (CU) traits and fearlessness using cardiovascular measures of sympathetic (pre-ejection period) and parasympathetic reactivity (respiratory sinus arrhythmia) during fear induction, and self-report measures of fear. Adolescents high in CU traits, from both samples, exhibited high levels of conduct problems and aggression. No group differences emerged on self-report of fear, but the high CU group did display a unique autonomic profile when experiencing fear. This pattern of biological reactivity, a coactivation of sympathetic and parasympathetic activity, may suggest adolescents high in CU traits are better able to manage fearful situations by remaining physiologically calm yet alert. This may explain why individuals with CU traits have been previously characterized as fearless. Chapter 4 included 182 female offenders, and aimed to predict misconducts over 9-months. Callous and antisocial psychopathic traits best predicted violence, while impulsivity and antisocial psychopathic traits predicted nonviolent misconducts. The key findings across all chapters show psychopathic traits, regardless of age and population type (forensic, clinical, and community), were related to high levels of aggressive and antisocial behavior, and a host of biological and cognitive differences.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available