Advertisement

Children’s Aggression and DSM-III-R Symptoms Predicted by Parent Psychopathology, Parenting Practices, Cortisol, and Ses

  • Keith McBurnett
  • Linda J. Pfiffner
  • Lisa Capasso
  • Benjamin B. Lahey
  • Rolf Loeber
Part of the Nato ASI Series book series (NSSA, volume 292)

Abstract

A handful of studies over the past 10 years have examined whether cortisol (a hormone which in humans is associated with stress and catabolic processes) is related to behavioral measures of aggression or conduct problems. In reviewing this small literature, McBurnett and Pfiffner (McBurnett & Pfiffner, in press) reached the tentative conclusion that low cortisol may be associated only with the most severe, chronic, and aggressive subtype of disruptive behavior. The basis for this hypothesis was that three studies found no significant association between cortisol and diagnostic status when the experimental groups were based on a diagnosis of a disruptive behavior disorder (Kruesi, Schmidt, Donnelly, Euthymia & others, 1989) or diagnosis of Conduct Disorder (CD), (Scerbo & Kolko, 1994) (Targum, Clarkson, Magac-Harris, Marshall & Skwerer, 1990), and that significant findings only emerged from designs in which diagnostic groups were more finely subtyped. In a sample of adults, cortisol was abnormally low only in prisoners who had both Antisocial Personality Disorder and a history of habitual violence (Virkkunen, 1985). When that sample was reanalyzed using childhood characteristics as a grouping variable, only prisoners with a developmental history of Undersocialized Aggressive CD were found to have abnormally low cortisol. This suggested that low cortisol was to be found only among groups who were chronically violent and psychopathic. In a clinic sample of boys, low cortisol was not found to be characteristic of the diagnosis of CD, but cortisol was found to be significantly low in boys who had CD and no anxiety disorder when compared to boys with CD who also had an anxiety disorder (McBurnett et al., 1991). Analyses of follow-up data on these same subjects suggested that cortisol was low in boys with DSM-IV Childhood Onset CD when compared to those with Adolescent Onset CD (McBurnett & Pfiffner, in press) and that low cortisol was associated only with overt, aggressive CD symptoms and not with covert CD symptoms (McBurnett, Lahey, Capasso & Loeber, 1996). These findings are consistent with the interpretation that low cortisol is characteristic only of those boys with CD who have a chronic, aggressive, low anxiety (psychopathic?) form of the disorder, similar to the interpretation of the Virkkunen (1985) study. We were interested in finding out whether this biological variable (low cortisol) was associated with chronic CD independently of known psychosocial correlates of CD, or whether the biological and the psychosocial correlates accounted for essentially the same variance in the development of chronic CD.

Keywords

Conduct Disorder Salivary Cortisol Conduct Disorder Antisocial Personality Disorder Urinary Free Cortisol 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Hollingshead, A. B. (1975). Four factor index of social status. New Haven, CT: Yale University.Google Scholar
  2. Kruesi, M. J., Schmidt, M. E., Donnelly, M., Euthymia, D., & others. (1989). Urinary free cortisol output and disruptive behavior in children. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 28(3), 441–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Lahey, B. B., Loeber, R., Stouthamer-Loeber, M., Christ, M. A. G., Green, S.M., Russo, M. F., Frick, P. J., & Dulcan, M. (1990). Comparison of DSM-III and DSM-III-R diagnoses for prepubertal children: Changes in prevalence and validity. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 29, 620–626.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. McBurnett, K., Lahey, B. B., Capasso, L., & Loeber, R. (1996). Aggressive symptoms and salivary cortisol in clinic-referred boys with Conduct Disorder. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 794 (Sept. 20: Understanding Aggressive Behavior in Children), 169–179.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. McBumett, K., Lahey, B. B., Frick, P. F., Risch, S.C., Loeber, R., Hart, E. L., Christ, M. A. G., & Hanson, K. S. (1991). Anxiety, inhibition, and conduct disorder in children: II. Relation to salivary cortisol. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 30, 192–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. McBurnett, K., & Pfiffner, L. J. (in press). Estimating developmental risk for psychopathy using subtypes, comorbidities, and biological correlates of conduct disorder. In R. D. Hare, D. Cooke, & A. Forth (Eds.), Psychopathy: Theory, Research, and Implications for Society.Google Scholar
  7. Raine, A. (1993). The psychopathology of crime. San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  8. Scerbo, A. S., & Kolko, D. J. (1994). Salivary testosterone and cortisol in disruptive children: Relationship to aggressive, hyperactive and internalizing behaviors. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 3(8), 1174–1184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Targum, S. D., Clarkson, L. L., Magac-Harris, K., Marshall, L. E., & Skwerer, R. G. (1990). Measurement of cortisol and lymphocyte subpopulations in depressed and conduct-disordered adolescents. Journal of Affective Disorders, 18 (91–96).PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Virkkunen, M. (1985). Urinary free cortisol secretion in habitually violent offenders. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 72(1), 40–44.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Keith McBurnett
    • 1
  • Linda J. Pfiffner
    • 1
  • Lisa Capasso
    • 1
  • Benjamin B. Lahey
    • 2
  • Rolf Loeber
    • 3
  1. 1.Child Development CenterUniversity of California, IrvineNewport BeachUSA
  2. 2.University of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  3. 3.University of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

Personalised recommendations