The role of cognitive systems in behavioral controls and emotional adjustment in juvenile delinquents

Date

2018-06-21

Authors

Stangeland, Melvin Richard

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Abstract

Structured equation modelling was used to test models which related general intelligence; verbal, visuospatial, and attentional skills; and a bias for processing information using right-hemisphere mechanisms to measures of delinquency in a population of 177 adjudicated male and female delinquents. Cognitive measures were estimated by the Wechsler intelligence scales. Personality constructs of social conformity and social confidence, derived from the California Psychological Inventory, served as mediating variables. The verbal model was most convincing and was more parsimonious than a composite model. Verbal skills were associated with greater social conformity and social confidence. Increased social confidence was associated with more serious patterns of delinquency. Direct relationships of general intelligence, verbal, visuospatial, and attentional skills with delinquency and aggressiveness were non-significant. Support was provided for the hypothesis that a right-hemisphere processing bias contributes to more serious delinquency and greater aggressiveness. The role of learning disabilities was examined with a sub-sample of 115 delinquents. A model which attributed delinquency and learning disabilities to cognitive deficits was slightly better than one which attributed delinquency to academic performance. It also provided a better fit than a composite model where academic performance contributed to delinquency. Performance in reading and arithmetic, as measured by the Wide Range Achievement Test, was not significantly associated with measures of delinquency and aggressiveness. Within these models, a right-hemisphere processing bias and reduced attentional skills were associated with greater aggressiveness. No relationship was found between a multivariate constellation of delinquency measures and neuropsychological dysfunction, as measured by an index of variability on the Wechsler intelligence scales. A hypothesized relationship between paranoia and aggressiveness was not supported. No difference was found between groups with varying degrees of lateral asymmetry of cognitive function, as measured by the Wechsler scales, on measures of depression or anxiety. A linear relationship was demonstrated between lateral asymmetry of cognitive functioning and a measure of self acceptance, with those with a non-verbal bias having the lowest scores. Groups with extreme verbal or performance biases scored highest on a measure of defensiveness, suggesting that they have trouble integrating strong emotional states and rely more on denial.

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Keywords

Cognition in adolescence, Adolescent psychology, Adolescent psychopathology, Cognition disorders, Learning disabilities, Juvenile delinquents, Juvenile delinquency

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