Neuropsychological assessment of executive functions in self-reported delinquents
Deficits in “executive” neuropsychological functions have been proposed to underlie the development of antisocial behavior such as juvenile delinquency. Results of research into the executive functions of delinquents have been mixed, and studies have been hampered by reliance on small samples of adjudicated subjects and questionable validity of the tests administered. This research examined the performance of a large unselected birth cohort of adolescent boys and girls on five tests of executive function that have documented reliability and validity. It is the first such study to use self-reports of antisocial behavior. Executive deficits were shown only by a subgroup of delinquent subjects with childhood comorbidity of antisocial behavior and attention deficit disorder; that subgroup's behavior was also rated as more aggressive and impulsive than comparison groups'. Group differences on executive measures remained significant after the effects of overall IQ were statistically controlled. Also, delinquents who had been detected by police did not show poorer executive functions than subjects with equivalent self-reports of delinquent behavior who had evaded official detection, suggesting that executive deficits are related to the development of antisocial behavior itself, and not simply to risk of detection. © 1989, Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved.
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