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Too much, too little? The roles of affect dysregulation and deficient affect in youth violence.

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Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
Date created
Children with high levels of dysregulated affect and negative reactivity experience a range of emotional and behavioral problems, including low levels of prosocial behavior, aggression and delinquency. Alongside this body of literature, research has also shown that abnormally low levels of affect and emotional reactivity – commonly termed ‘deficient affect’ – is also associated with aggression and violence. These diverging lines of research call attention to the complex role of emotion in aggressive behavior, and appear to support opposing hypotheses (i.e., dysregulated versus deficient affect as risk factors for aggressive behavior). The goal of this study was to clarify the contributions of affect dysregulation and deficient affect in predicting acts of aggression, violence and non-violent delinquency in high-risk youth. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to investigate the direct and interaction effects of affect dysregulation and deficient affect in a prospective study of aggression and antisocial behavior in a sample of 179 adolescents. Results support the notion that there are two separate routes to problem behaviors, and highlight the importance of identifying two “faces” of affective experience that give rise to aggressive behaviors among adolescents.
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