“You can’t sit with us”: Relational aggression as an indicator of impairment in the conceptualization of conduct behaviors

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2023-12
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Irvin-Vitela, Maya A.
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Marsee, Monica A
Crede, Marcus
Phillips, Warren H
Zarling, Amie L
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Psychology
Abstract
For the past 30 years, researchers have advocated for the need to update conduct disorder (CD) criteria to account for gender differences in symptom presentation. In particular, some researchers suggest that the inclusion of relational aggression in CD diagnostic criteria could increase clinicians’ ability to identify girls with conduct problems. This is due to evidence suggesting that the use of relational aggression is associated with severity of behavioral problems, particularly for girls. The present study aimed to examine the role of relational aggression as an indicator of impairment in conceptualizations of conduct problems using a large national dataset. Participants included 11,873 youth from the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development Study. Latent profile analyses (LPA) were performed on a subset of this sample (N=1,970) who endorsed the presence of at least one conduct symptom in the 12 months prior to their interview date. The LPA identified three unique profiles of youth with conduct problems based on self-reported aggression and callous unemotional (CU) traits. The first group (CU Group; n=154) had higher levels of CU traits and low levels of both physical and relational aggression. The second group (Low Group; n=1,669) had the lowest levels of CU traits and both physical and relational aggression. The third group (Aggression Group; n=147) had levels of CU traits in between those of the other groups and higher levels of both physical and relational aggression. Follow-up analyses determined that the Low Group had significantly higher levels of psychosocial functioning than the CU and Aggression Groups, but that the CU and Aggression Groups did not differ significantly from each other on levels of functioning. Results support the need for additional research related to subgroups of youth with conduct problems.
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