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Cognitive and Emotional Deficits Associated with Minor and Serious Delinquency in High-Risk Adolescents
Psychiatry, Psychology and Law
This study aims at evaluating how minor and serious delinquency relates to cognitive and emotional functioning in high-risk adolescents, taking problematic substance use into account. In 80 high-risk adolescent males (13-19 years), the frequency of minor and serious offences committed over the last year was predicted, in multiple regression analyses, from problematic substance use, intellectual efficiency, trait impulsivity, alexithymia (inability to express feelings in words), and cognitive coping strategies. Both minor and serious delinquency were more frequent in adolescents with more problematic substance use and higher intellectual efficacy. Minor delinquency was further related to a tendency to act out when experiencing negative emotions, and difficulties in focusing energy on instrumental action when under stress; while serious delinquency was predominantly and strongly related to rigid and dichotomous thinking. The results underline the heterogeneous nature of delinquency, minor offences being primarily associated with emotional regulation deficits, while major offences are related with a lack of cognitive flexibility.
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