Executive Functions and Physical Aggression after Controlling for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, General Memory, and IQ

Research Unit on Childhood Psychosocial Maladjustment, Université de Montréal, Québec, Canada.
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 6.46). 12/1999; 40(8):1197-208. DOI: 10.1017/S0021963099004710
Source: PubMed


This study examined the role of ADHD in the association between physical aggression and two types of executive functions. Boys received a cognitive-neuropsychological test battery over the ages of 13, 14, and 15 years. Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children (DISC 2.25) data were collected from the boys and one parent between ages 14 and 16, and an IQ estimate was obtained at age 15. Three groups, differing in stability and level of physical aggression since kindergarten, were formed: Stable Aggressive, Unstable Aggressive, and Non-aggressive. Composite scores of validated executive function tests of working memory representing subjective ordering and conditional association learning were formed. A MANCOVA (N = 149) using ADHD status, teacher-rated negative emotionality, general memory abilities, and IQ as covariates was performed on the two composite scores. ADHD and teacher-rated emotionality did not provide significant adjustment to the dependent variables. Number of ADHD symptoms was negatively associated only with general memory and IQ. General memory contributed significantly to adjusting for conditional association test scores. Group differences indicated lower conditional association scores for Unstable Aggressive boys relative to the other groups. Both IQ and general memory abilities interacted with subjective ordering within the groups. Specifically, Stable Aggressive boys performed poorly on this measure and did not benefit from increases in IQ whereas Nonaggressive boys performed best and were not disadvantaged by lower general memory abilities. This suggests a relationship exists between aspects of working memory and a history of physical aggression regardless of ADHD and IQ.

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    • "Based on studies suggesting a relation between executive function and aggression, we expected that poor executive function would be associated with bullying involvement. Earlier studies have shown a relation between aggression (mainly reactive) and poor inhibition, planning/organization and working memory (Coolidge et al. 2004; Ellis et al. 2009; Raaijmakers et al. 2008; Séguin et al. 1999). "
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    ABSTRACT: Executive function and intelligence are negatively associated with aggression, yet the role of executive function has rarely been examined in the context of school bullying. We studied whether different domains of executive function and non-verbal intelligence are associated with bullying involvement in early elementary school. The association was examined in a population-based sample of 1,377 children. At age 4 years we assessed problems in inhibition, shifting, emotional control, working memory and planning/organization, using a validated parental questionnaire (the BRIEF-P). Additionally, we determined child non-verbal IQ at age 6 years. Bullying involvement as a bully, victim or a bully-victim in grades 1-2 of elementary school (mean age 7.7 years) was measured using a peer-nomination procedure. Individual bullying scores were based on the ratings by multiple peers (on average 20 classmates). Analyses were adjusted for various child and maternal socio-demographic and psychosocial covariates. Child score for inhibition problems was associated with the risk of being a bully (OR per SD = 1.35, 95%CI: 1.09-1.66), victim (OR per SD = 1.21, 95%CI: 1.00-1.45) and a bully-victim (OR per SD = 1.55, 95%CI: 1.10-2.17). Children with higher non-verbal IQ were less likely to be victims (OR = 0.99, 95%CI: 0.98-1.00) and bully-victims (OR = 95%CI: 0.93-0.98, respectively). In conclusion, our study showed that peer interactions may be to some extent influenced by children's executive function and non-verbal intelligence. Future studies should examine whether training executive function skills can reduce bullying involvement and improve the quality of peer relationships.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2013 · Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology
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    • "A 60-year longitudinal study of juvenile delinquents concluded that very few show life-span high frequency of violent offending [5]. Among those who do express chronic physical aggression, impaired executive functioning is evident in adolescence and early adulthood, even after controlling for other cognitive-neuropsychological domains, intelligence quotient (IQ) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms [4], [6], [7], [8]. Longitudinal follow up of elementary school children with high levels of physical aggression demonstrates that they are at greater risk for substance abuse, anti-social personality, suicide, depression, spouse abuse and neglectful and abusive parenting [9], [10], [11]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Adults exhibiting severe impulsive and aggressive behaviors have multiple indices of low serotonin (5-HT) neurotransmission. It remains unclear though whether low 5-HT mediates the behavior or instead reflects a pre-existing vulnerability trait. In the present study, positron emission tomography with the tracer alpha-[(11)C]methyl-L-tryptophan ((11)C-AMT) was used to compare 5-HT synthesis capacity in two groups of adult males from a 21-year longitudinal study (mean age +/- SD: 27.1+/-0.7): individuals with a history of childhood-limited high physical aggression (C-LHPA; N = 8) and individuals with normal (low) patterns of physical aggression (LPA; N = 18). The C-LHPA males had significantly lower trapping of (11)C-AMT bilaterally in the orbitofrontal cortex and self-reported more impulsiveness. Despite this, in adulthood there were no group differences in plasma tryptophan levels, genotyping, aggression, emotional intelligence, working memory, computerized measures of impulsivity, psychosocial functioning/adjustment, and personal and family history of mood and substance abuse disorders. These results force a re-examination of the low 5-HT hypothesis as central in the biology of violence. They suggest that low 5-HT does not mediate current behavior and should be considered a vulnerability factor for impulsive-aggressive behavior that may or may not be expressed depending on other biological factors, experience, and environmental support during development.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2010 · PLoS ONE
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    • "time (e.g., for conduct disorder see Morgan & Lilienfeld, 2000, or for ADHD see Nigg, Willcutt, Doyle, & Sonuga-Barke, 2005), instead of examining multiple disorders simultaneously. Further, when two disorders have been considered simultaneously, researchers have typically examined one while controlling for the other (Déry, Toupin, Pauzé, Mercier, & Fortin, 1999; Giancola, Mezzich, & Tarter, 1998; Séguin, Boulerice, Harden, Tremblay, & Pihl, 1999). These studies provide neurocognitive information about one behavior problem while controlling for a second one, but they do not provide neurocognitive information on the second controlling for the first. "
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    ABSTRACT: There are strong parallels between early childhood and adolescent behavior problems. However, we do not know if behavioral symptoms associate with neurocognitive processes in very young children as they do in older children. We studied a population-based birth cohort of children (N = 1,950) whose developmental trajectories of physical aggression and hyperactivity were assessed between the ages of 17 and 41 months. We measured the following neurocognitive abilities at 41 months of age: Receptive vocabulary, visuospatial organization, and short-term memory. After controlling for other neurocognitive abilities, frequent physical aggression was related specifically to receptive vocabulary deficits (p < .0001) while frequent hyperactivity was related specifically to deficits of visuospatial organization (p < .0001). The pattern of associations was robust despite controls for socioeconomic and perinatal status. The different neurocognitive correlates of physical aggression and hyperactivity problems observed during adolescence are apparent in early childhood. Whereas physical aggression problems are associated with language deficits, hyperactivity problems are related to non-verbal deficits.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2009 · Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
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