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Impulsivity and verbal deficits associated with domestic violence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 July 2003

RONALD A. COHEN
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Brown University School of Medicine, Providence, Rhode Island
VIRDETTE BRUMM
Affiliation:
Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, Univ. of Southern California
TRICIA M. ZAWACKI
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Brown University School of Medicine, Providence, Rhode Island
ROBERT PAUL
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Brown University School of Medicine, Providence, Rhode Island
LAWRENCE SWEET
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Brown University School of Medicine, Providence, Rhode Island
ALAN ROSENBAUM
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts

Abstract

While neurobiological factors are known to play a role in human aggression, relatively few studies have examined neuropsychological contributions to propensity for violence. We previously demonstrated cognitive deficits among men who committed domestic violence (batterers) compared to non-violent controls. Batterers had deficits in verbal ability, learning and executive problem-solving ability. These findings led us to examine whether executive control problems involving impulsivity contribute to problems with behavioral control among batterers, and to further examine their deficits in verbal functioning. Batterers (n = 41) enrolled in a domestic violence program were compared to 20 non-violent men of similar age, education, and socioeconomic background on neuropsychological tests of executive functioning, including impulsivity. Questionnaires and structured clinical interviews were used to assess emotional distress, aggression and self-reported impulsivity. Batterers showed greater impulsivity compared to non-batterers on several neuropsychological measures. Yet, the severity of these deficits was relatively mild and not evident in all batterers. Consistent with our previous findings, significant verbal deficits were again observed among the batterers. These findings suggest that while impulsivity may be a factor associated with domestic violence, it probably is not the sole determinant of the strong relationship between cognitive functioning and batterer status that we previously observed. Both verbal expressive deficits and behavioral impulsivity appear to be relevant variables in predisposing men to domestic violence. (JINS, 2003, 9, 760–770.)

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2003 The International Neuropsychological Society

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