The link between dyslexic traits, executive functioning, impulsivity and social self-esteem among an offender and non-offender sample

Int J Law Psychiatry. Nov-Dec 2007;30(6):492-503. doi: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2007.09.010. Epub 2007 Oct 4.


Purpose: The current study had two core aims; first to explore the link between dyslexic traits and other aspects of functioning among a sample of offenders and non-offenders (students); and, second, to explore if dyslexic traits were over-represented among offenders. A subsidiary aim was to explore if the results were influenced by an offender's current index offence (i.e. violent versus non-violent).

Method: Ninety-two adult male participants took part: sixty offenders and thirty-two non-offenders. All completed a structured interview assessing dyslexic traits, namely the Dyslexia Adult Screening Test battery (DAST: Fawcett and Nicholson, 1998). Participants also completed a measure of executive functioning (Benton Word Fluency Test, Benton, A. (1968) Differential behavioural effects in frontal lobe disease. Neuropsychologica, 6, 53-60), impulsivity (Barratt Impulsiveness Scale: BIS-II, Barratt, E.S. (1994), Impulsiveness and Aggression. In J. Monahan and H.J. Steadman (Eds.), Violence and Mental Disorder: Developments in Risk Assessment (pp.61-79). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.) and social self-esteem (Texas Social Behavior Inventory: TSBI, Helmreich and Stapp, 1974).

Results: Offenders presented with more dyslexic traits than non-offenders, with those with violent index offences presenting with more traits than those with non-violent index offences. Offenders performed poorly on assessments of executive functioning when compared with non-offenders. Dyslexic traits were predicted most significantly by executive functioning difficulties followed by decreased social self-esteem. There was a trend for increased impulsivity to correlate with increased dyslexic traits. Dyslexic traits were also predictive of membership to the offender group whereas impulsivity, executive functioning or social self-esteem was not.

Conclusion: Preliminary evidence is provided for increased dyslexic traits among offenders compared to non-offenders. The study highlights the correlates of dyslexic traits. The implications of these findings for future research are outlined.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Crime / psychology*
  • Dyslexia / epidemiology
  • Dyslexia / physiopathology*
  • Forensic Psychiatry
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Personality Inventory
  • Self Concept*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology