Developmental trajectories of male physical violence and theft: relations to neurocognitive performance

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2007 May;64(5):592-9. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.64.5.592.


Context: Neurocognitive mechanisms have long been hypothesized to influence developmental trajectories of antisocial behavior. However, studies examining this association tend to aggregate a variety of problem behaviors that may be differently affected by neurocognitive deficits.

Objective: To describe the developmental trajectories of physical violence and theft from adolescence to adulthood, their associations, and the neurocognitive characteristics of individuals following different patterns of trajectory association.

Design: Accelerated cohort-sequential, longitudinal design.

Setting: Rutgers Health and Human Development Project.

Participants: Six hundred ninety-eight men.

Main outcome measures: Self-reports of physical violence (ages 12-24 years) and theft (ages 12-31 years) were collected across 5 waves. Neurocognitive performance was assessed with executive function and verbal IQ tests between late adolescence and early adulthood.

Results: The majority (55%) of subjects showed an increased frequency of theft during the study period, while only a minority (13%) evinced an increasing frequency of physical violence. Executive function and verbal IQ performance were negatively related to high frequency of physical violence but were unrelated to theft [corrected].

Conclusions: Developmental trajectories of physical violence and theft during adolescence and early adulthood are different and differently related to neurocognitive functioning. Global indexes of antisocial behavior mask the development of antisocial behavior subtypes and putative causal mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology
  • Adolescent Development*
  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Juvenile Delinquency / psychology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Theft / psychology*
  • Theft / statistics & numerical data
  • Violence / psychology*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data