Antisocial Behaviour and Executive Function in Late Adolescence and Early Adulthood
Embargoed until: 2019-12-12
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Adolescence is a developmental period typically characterised by increasing levels of risk-taking and antisocial behaviour (ASB), and these behavioural changes coincide with physical, neurological, psychological, and social maturational changes and transitions (Crone, van Duijvenvoorde, & Peper, 2016; Steinberg, 2010a). There is an emerging understanding of the role neuropsychological factors, including executive functioning (EF), play in the expression of risk-taking and ASB during adolescence. EF abilities follow a protracted course of development into adolescence, and are associated with improving regulatory and cognitive control capacities as they mature (Diamond, 2013). There is a significant body of research highlighting a robust link between EF impairments and engagement in ASB (Morgan & Lilienfeld, 2000). In contrast, there have been few attempts to explore how developmentally immature EF may be associated with increasing rates of participation in ASB during adolescence and early adulthood in typically developing youth. The aim of this thesis was to integrate criminological and neuropsychological perspectives to examine the intersection between EF and ASB during the developmental period of adolescence. Four studies were conducted to explore the links between EF and ASB. The first study was a meta-analysis to quantify the association between EF and ASB and summarise the current state of the research literature. Results confirmed a robust association between EF and ASB that held across varied study methodologies. Significant variation in effect size magnitude was observed across EF measures and operationalisations, suggesting that there is specificity in the association between EF and ASB. The second study documented the development of a self-report measure of ASB, and summarised the involvement in a range of antisocial acts for a sample of 404 typically developing youth (262 females) aged 17 to 22-years-old. Results suggested that ASB was best measured as a multidimensional construct, and that engagement in ASB was widespread and therefore appeared relatively normative for typically developing youth. The third study examined the developmental progression and structure of EF for an age-stratified cross-sectional sample of 129 typically developing youth (67 females) aged 17 to 22-years-old. Participant’s EF abilities were assessed using a battery of paper-and-pencil and computerised EF measures. Results indicated that most EFs were functionally mature at the time of assessment, although there was some evidence to suggest that inhibitory control abilities continued to improve across late adolescence into early adulthood. Further results suggested that EF was best represented as a multidimensional construct of five distinct but related components, which included a component related to the operation of EF under motivational/affective conditions (i.e., “hot” EF). The fourth study examined the links between EF, risk taking and self-reported engagement in ASB during late adolescence and early adulthood using the same typically developing sample as the third study. Results indicated that levels of risktaking and self-reported ASB appeared stable across the age-range studied, suggesting that the age period may have represented a heightened period of involvement in these behaviours. Contrary to hypotheses, better performance on some EF measures was associated with greater involvement in some forms of ASB. Overall, results suggested that the role of EF in ASB might be different for typically developing youth compared to clinical samples of antisocial youth. In summary, this thesis makes a unique contribution to existing research by examining the links between EF and ASB in a sample of typically developing youth. Results provide evidence that engagement in ASB is widespread for typically developing youth, and that the role of EF in explaining these behaviours differs from pathologically antisocial youth.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD ClinPsych)
School of Applied Psychology
The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.
Social maturational changes
Typically developing youth