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07-09-2015 | Uitgave 4/2016

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 4/2016

The Phenomenology of Non-Aggressive Antisocial Behavior During Childhood

Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology > Uitgave 4/2016
S. Alexandra Burt, M. Brent Donnellan, Brooke L. Slawinski, Kelly L. Klump


Although the phenomenology of overt or aggressive antisocial behavior during childhood is well-documented, far less is known about covert or non-aggressive, rule-breaking (RB) antisocial behavior. Gaps in knowledge include issues as basic as RB’s typical symptom presentation during childhood and which symptoms differ across sex. The current study sought to fill these gaps in the literature by establishing the prevalence and psychometric properties of specific RB behaviors in a sample of 1022 twin boys and 1010 twin girls between the ages of 6 and 10 years. Legal RB behaviors (e.g., breaking rules, swears, lying or cheating) were present to varying degrees in most children, regardless of whether or not they passed the clinical threshold for RB. They were also more common in boys than in girls regardless of their clinical status. In sharp contrast, illegal RB behaviors (e.g., stealing, vandalism, setting fires) were rarely observed in typically-developing children, but were seen at moderate levels in boys and girls with clinically-significant levels of RB. Moreover, sex differences in illegal RB behaviors were observed only for those youth with clinically meaningful levels of RB. Such findings collectively imply that while legal RB behaviors can be found (albeit at different frequencies) in children with and without clinically meaningful levels of RB, illegal RB behaviors may function as relatively ‘unambiguous’ indicator of clinically-significant levels of RB.

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