Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 165-178

First online:

Instrumental and hostile aggression in childhood disruptive behavior disorders

  • Marc S. AtkinsAffiliated withUniversity of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
  • , David M. StoffAffiliated withNational Institute of Mental Health

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An analogue task of instrumental and hostile aggression during a competitive game was evaluated in a sample of clinically-referred 8-to 12-year-old aggressive boys. Similar to a prior task in a normative sample (Having, Wallace, & La Forme, 1979), both types of aggression increased during provocation as compared to baseline, indicating the success of the provocation manipulation, with moderate correlations between the two aggressive responses. The aggressive group with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the aggressive group without ADHD each had higher rates of instrumental aggression than controls. Only the aggressive/ADHD group had higher rates of hostile aggression than controls. Parent Child Behavior Checklist ratings indicated a modest but significant unique relationship between instrumental aggression and delinquency. The high rate of both types of aggression in the aggressive/ADHD group suggests that comorbid ADHD and aggression may result in qualitative differences in aggressive behavior. The high rate of hostile aggression in the aggressive-ADHD group supports theoretical assumptions regarding the relationship of hostile aggression to poor impulse control.