The Relationships between Functional and Dysfunctional Impulsivity and Aggression across Different Samples

Article excerpt

E. S. Barratt proposed the term impulsive aggression to define a kind of aggression that is characterized by acting without thinking because of high levels of impulsivity. Previous research using psychometric measures has shown that impulsivity and aggression are related as far as psychometric measures are concerned. Nevertheless, most of the research has been done with samples of university students. Our research tests whether this relationship is stable across different samples; university students, teenagers and workers. Our results show that impulsivity and aggression have a consistent pattern of relationships across these samples, with impulsivity being specially related to emotional and instrumental aspects of aggression. Furthermore, the effects of anger on aggression seem to show a pattern of relationship that depends on age, with a tendency to physical aggression in young people and verbal aggression in adults.

Keywords: impulsivity, impulsive aggression, anger

E. S. Barratt ha propuesto el término agresión impulsiva para definir un tipo de agresión que se caracteriza por actuar sin pensar debido a altos niveles de impulsividad. Investigaciones anteriores con medidas psicométricas han mostrado que impulsividad y agresión están relacionadas en lo que a las medidas psicométricas se refiere. Sin embargo, la mayoría de las investigaciones han empleado muestras de estudiantes universitarios. Nuestro trabajo trata de comprobar si esta relación se mantiene en muestras diferentes. Nuestros resultados indican que impulsividad y agresión muestran una pauta de relación consistente across these samples, estando la impulsividad especialmente relacionada con los aspectos emocionales e instrumentales de la agresión. Además, los efectos de la ira sobre la agresión muestran al parecer una pauta de relación dependiente de la edad, encontrándose una tendencia a la agresión física en gente joven y la agresión verbal en adultos.

Palabras clave: impulsividad, agresión impulsiva, ira

There is a general consensus on the multidimensional nature of impulsivity but there is also a lack of agreement about the number of dimensions that this construct contains. Several authors have tried to determine the number and nature of these dimensions by applying factor analysis or structural equation modelling to various self-report measures of impulsivity (Gerbing, Ahadi, & Patton, 1987; Miller, Flory, Lynam, & Leukefeld, 2003; Miller, Joseph, & Tudway, 2004; Whiteside & Lynam, 2001). Although these analyses proposed a different number of dimensions, most of them agree that certain scales tend to show high loadings on the same factor. In this respect, Whiteside and Lynam (2001) and Miller et al. (2004) found that the Dysfunctional Impulsivity (DI) scale of Dickman's Impulsivity Questionnaire (Dickman, 1990), the Impulsivity scale of Eysencks' I7 (NI) Impulsivity Questionnaire (Eysenck, Pearson, Easting, & Allsopp, 1985) and the three Impulsivity scales of Barrat's Impulsiveness Scale-11 (BIS-11; Patton, Stanford, & Barratt, 1995) loaded on the same dimension. Furthermore, Vigil-Colet (2007) recently showed that the disattenuated correlation coefficient between DI and the NI is around 1, so both scales seem to measure the same dimension. On the other hand, the same studies show that functional impulsivity (FI) and venturesomeness (VE) scales tend to load on a different factor.

The concepts of functional and dysfunctional impulsivity were proposed by Dickman (1990). He suggested that impulsivity involved at least two distinct and independent forms. The first is functional impulsivity, which is related to a tendency to take quick decisions when this is appropriate to the situation. The second is dysfunctional impulsivity and is related to speedy and non-reflexive decisions, which have negative consequences for the individual. This distinction is similar to Eysenck's (1997) distinction between extraverted impulsivity and psychotic impulsivity: the former is the process of taking decisions with a calculated risk, while the latter is the process of taking decisions that do not take into account the associated risks and consequences of the action. …