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Relational Aggression in Adolescents with Conduct Disorder: Sex Differences and Behavioral Correlates

  • Katharina AckermannEmail author
  • Marietta Kirchner
  • Anka Bernhard
  • Anne Martinelli
  • Chrysanthi Anomitri
  • Rosalind Baker
  • Sarah Baumann
  • Roberta Dochnal
  • Aranzazu Fernandez-Rivas
  • Karen Gonzalez-Madruga
  • Beate Herpertz-Dahlmann
  • Amaia Hervas
  • Lucres Jansen
  • Kristina Kapornai
  • Linda Kersten
  • Gregor Kohls
  • Ronald Limprecht
  • Helen Lazaratou
  • Ana McLaughlin
  • Helena Oldenhof
  • Jack C. Rogers
  • Réka Siklósi
  • Areti Smaragdi
  • Esther Vivanco-Gonzalez
  • Christina Stadler
  • Graeme Fairchild
  • Arne Popma
  • Stephane A. De Brito
  • Kerstin Konrad
  • Christine M. Freitag
Article

Abstract

As most research on conduct disorder (CD) has been conducted on male participants, it has been suggested that female-specific symptoms may be underestimated based on current DSM-5 criteria. In particular, relational aggression, i.e. the hurtful, often indirect, manipulation of relationships with the intention of damaging the other’s social position, has been proposed as a characteristic of CD that is more common in females. In addition, sex-specific studies on correlates of relational aggressive behavior are lacking. Relational aggression may be strongly related to the correlates of proactive aggression, namely low affective empathy, and high levels of callous-unemotional (CU) traits and relational victimization. Thus, the present study investigated sex differences in relational aggression, and associations between relational aggression and correlates of proactive aggression in 662 adolescents with CD (403 females) and 849 typically-developing controls (568 females) aged 9–18 years (M = 14.74, SD = 2.34) from the European multi-site FemNAT-CD study. Females with CD showed significantly higher levels of relational aggression compared to males with CD, whereas no sex differences were seen in controls. Relational aggression was only partly related to correlates of proactive aggression in CD: Independent of sex, CU traits showed a positive association with relational aggression. In females only, cognitive, but not affective empathy, was negatively associated with relational aggression. Relational victimization was more strongly associated with relational aggression in males compared to females. Despite interesting sex specific correlates of relational aggression, effects are small and the potential clinical implications should be investigated in future studies.

Keywords

Relational aggression Conduct disorder Sex differences Empathy Callous-unemotional traits Relational victimization 

Notes

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Author C.M Freitag declares royalties on books on ASD, ADHD, and MDD and is consultant for Roche and Desitin (ASD). Author G. Fairchild has received funding from the European Commission, the MRC, ESRC, CONACYT and Kids’ Company.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10802_2019_541_MOESM1_ESM.docx (53 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 53 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katharina Ackermann
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marietta Kirchner
    • 2
  • Anka Bernhard
    • 1
  • Anne Martinelli
    • 1
  • Chrysanthi Anomitri
    • 3
  • Rosalind Baker
    • 4
  • Sarah Baumann
    • 5
  • Roberta Dochnal
    • 6
  • Aranzazu Fernandez-Rivas
    • 7
  • Karen Gonzalez-Madruga
    • 8
  • Beate Herpertz-Dahlmann
    • 5
  • Amaia Hervas
    • 9
  • Lucres Jansen
    • 10
  • Kristina Kapornai
    • 6
  • Linda Kersten
    • 11
  • Gregor Kohls
    • 5
  • Ronald Limprecht
    • 2
  • Helen Lazaratou
    • 3
  • Ana McLaughlin
    • 12
  • Helena Oldenhof
    • 10
  • Jack C. Rogers
    • 4
  • Réka Siklósi
    • 6
  • Areti Smaragdi
    • 13
  • Esther Vivanco-Gonzalez
    • 7
  • Christina Stadler
    • 11
  • Graeme Fairchild
    • 14
  • Arne Popma
    • 10
  • Stephane A. De Brito
    • 4
  • Kerstin Konrad
    • 5
  • Christine M. Freitag
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, University Hospital FrankfurtGoethe UniversityFrankfurt am MainGermany
  2. 2.Department of Medical Biometry, Institute of Medical Biometry and Informatics (IMBI)Heidelberg UniversityHeidelbergGermany
  3. 3.Children and Adolescents Mental Health Unit of Athens UniversityAthensGreece
  4. 4.School of Psychology, Centre for Human Brain HealthUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK
  5. 5.Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and PsychotherapyUniversity Hospital RWTH AachenAachenGermany
  6. 6.Faculty of Medicine, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of the Child Health CenterSzeged UniversitySzegedHungary
  7. 7.Basurto University HospitalBilbaoSpain
  8. 8.Department of PsychologyUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  9. 9.Child and Adolescent Mental Health UnitUniversity Hospital Mutua TerrassaTerrassaSpain
  10. 10.Departments of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryVU University Medical CentreAmsterdamNetherlands
  11. 11.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryUniversity of Basel Psychiatric HospitalBaselSwitzerland
  12. 12.Department of Psychiatry, St. James HospitalDublinIreland
  13. 13.Centre for Addiction and Mental HealthTorontoCanada
  14. 14.Department of PsychologyUniversity of BathClaverton Down BathUK

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