Troubled Children Grown-Up: Antisocial Behavior in Young Adult Criminals

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study attempted to evaluate Eysenck's antisocial behavior (ASB) hypothesis. The hypothesis proposes that there is an antisocial temperament that in interaction with socialization, intelligence, and achievement put an individual at significant risk for developing antisocial behavior. Evaluation of Eysenck's ASB hypothesis was conducted with a male sample of recently paroled young adults (N 107) from a large, urban city. The Eysenck Personality Questionnaire-Revised was administered to assess temperament characteristics and the Basic Adlerian Scales for Interpersonal Success-Adult was administered to assess socialization. Retrospective data on juvenile behavior were collected using an adaptation of the National Youth Survey. Intelligence and achievement scores were obtained from participants' file data. All participants had previously been administered the Culture Fair Intelligence Test and the Wide Range Achievement Test -3. The results were supportive of Eysenck's ASB hypothesis. The sample differed in p redicted directions from test norms in both temperament and socialization. There were also within sample differences in predicted directions between participants with relatively high antisocial behavior history scores in contrast to those with relatively low antisocial behavior history scores. No difference was found for intelligence. However, there was one significant within sample achievement difference with high antisocial participants scoring significantly lower in arithmetic. Mean scores in reading and arithmetic for both high and low antisocial participants were below the 20th percentile in comparison to their normative peers. Only 11% of the participants had received special education services when they were public school students.

What influences an individual to develop serious antisocial and criminal behavior? Sociologists have attempted to answer this question in terms of social interaction patterns (e.g., Sutherland & Cressey, 1978). Psychologists have searched for answers in the early family interactions of children (e.g., Patterson, Reid & Dishion, 1992). However biological factors in antisocial behavior have received little attention, particularly in the United States. One well-developed theoretical model that takes into account a significant biological factor, temperament, is the biosocial personality theory of the British psychologist Hans Eysenck (1977, 1997).

Eysenck's model is based on the interaction of three biological temperament source traits with socialization experiences and general intelligence (Eysenck, 1997). Eysenck has identified three temperament traits, Psychoticism (F), Extroversion (E), and Neuroticism (N). Eysenck (1977, 1997) predicts that individuals high on the F, E, and N traits will be at the greatest risk for the development of serious antisocial behavior (ASB). The risk of developing serious behavior problems will be exacerbated by poor socialization and by below average intelligence associated with low academic achievement. The P trait is the primary trait implicated in the development of ASB with elevations on E and N being secondary.

While not part of the temperament based personality theory, a fourth variable that is a product of Eysenck's measurement of personality also plays a tertiary role in his ASB hypothesis. This fourth variable is the Lie (L) Scale on the Eysencks' personality questionnaire (H. J. Eysenck & S. B. G. Eysenck, 1975, 1993). The current interpretation of the L Scale is that L is a measure of conformity to social expectations rather than a dissimulation measure. The shift in focus is due to the low L Scale scores that have been routinely obtained in samples with high P scores (e.g., Gabrys et al., 1988). A low L Scale score is often interpreted to indicate that an individual is indifferent to social expectations and is not well socialized.

Extroversion is related to the baseline arousal level in an individual's neocortex, which is mediated by the Ascending Reticular Activating System (ARAS) (Eysenck, 1967, 1977, 1997). …