Academic journal article The European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context

The Relationship of Anger and Cognitive Distortions with Violence in Violent Offenders' Population: A Meta-Analytic Review

Academic journal article The European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context

The Relationship of Anger and Cognitive Distortions with Violence in Violent Offenders' Population: A Meta-Analytic Review

Article excerpt


In the present meta-analysis, the magnitude of the relationship between cognitive distortions and anger and violent behaviour of incarcerated offenders, based on selected data for the relationship between anger and violence, and cognitive distortions and violence was empirically assessed. Out of nineteen studies included for analysis nine of them contain statistical indicators regarding the relationship between anger and violence, and fourteen studies regarding cognitive distortions and violence. The results indicated a strong relationship both between anger and violence, and between cognitive distortions and violent behaviour. Furthermore, the moderating effect of the type of instruments (self-reported vs. observational behavioural measurements) used for violence assessment was tested. The results indicated that the type of instruments had no significant influence on the cognition-violence relationship, Q^sub B^(1) = 0.12, p > .05, while in case of the anger-violence relationship, a significant moderating effect was identified, Q^sub B^(1) = 14.26, p < .01, which supports a higher effect size when violence was measured by a self-reported than when was measured by behavioural observation.

Keywords: anger; cognitive distortions; violence; incarcerated offenders; meta-analysis; moderation analysis.


La magnitud de la relación entre las distorsiones cognitivas y la ira con el comportamiento violento de delincuentes encarcelados, se evaluó empíricamente mediante un meta-análisis. De los diecinueve estudios hallados que estudiaban la relación entre estas variables, nueve incluían datos estadísticos sobre la relación entre ira y violencia, y catorce entre distorsiones cognitivas y la violencia. Los resultados apoyan una fuerte relación entre ira y violencia, y entre distorsiones cognitivas y comportamiento violento. Además, el efecto moderador del tipo de instrumentos (medidas de auto-informe vs. registro conductual) que se utiliza para la evaluación de la violencia fue sometido a estudio. Los resultados indicaron que el tipo de medida no influye la relación cognición-violencia, Q^sub B^(1) = 0.12, p > .05, mientras que en el caso de la relación entre ira y violencia, se halló un efecto moderador del instrumento de medida, Q^sub B^(1) = 14.26, p < .01, de modo que el tamaño del efecto era mayor cuando se tomaba una medida autoinformada de la violencia que cuando se basaba en el registro conductual.

Palabras clave: ira; distorsiones cognitivas; violencia; presos; meta-análisis; moderadores.


Anger and cognitive distortions are considered as being the main predictive factors that explain the appearance of human aggression. According to cognitive behavioural theories anger is an emotional consequence of specific cognitive processing, while violence is the behavioural consequence. For a better understanding of the role of anger and cognitive distortions in violent offending behaviour the present study was conducted as a quantitative review which provides estimates of the magnitude of the association between these mechanisms and violence.

Anger and violence

Beck (1999) has asserted that cognitive distortions involved in anger and violence are generated by a type of narrow and automatic thinking named "primary thinking" that is activated in conflictual situations. In forensic institutions anger is considered the main emotional cause of violent behaviour. Therefore, it became an important criminogenic need considered in the structure of treatment programs for violent offenders.

The various attempts to define anger have determined the multidimensional perspective which consists of physiological, cognitive, subjective, and behavioural variables. The cognitive component refers to the threat perception (i.e., on the corporal integrity, on the property, self image and social status) and anger is associated with irrational beliefs and attributions about the others intentions (DiGiuseppe & Tafrate, 2007). …

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