JOURNAL ARTICLE

State and trait emotions in delinquent adolescents

Belinda Plattner, Niranjan Karnik, Booil Jo, Rebecca E Hall, Astrid Schallauer, Victor Carrion, Martha Feucht, Hans Steiner
Child Psychiatry and Human Development 2007, 38 (2): 155-69
17417724

OBJECTIVE: To examine the structure of emotions and affective dysregulation in juvenile delinquents.

METHOD: Fifty-six juvenile delinquents from a local juvenile hall and 169 subjects from a local high school were recruited for this study. All participants completed psychometric testing for trait emotions followed by measurements of state emotions under two conditions (free association and stress condition). Finally, delinquent participants completed a detailed assessment of past trauma using the Childhood Trauma Interview (CTI).

RESULTS: Delinquents exhibit significantly higher levels of negative state and trait emotions when compared to a high school sample. In the delinquent sample chronicity of physical trauma affects the longstanding variable of trait emotionality and severity of trauma, specifically emotional abuse and witnessing violence, shapes negative emotional outcomes in state emotionality. In addition, delinquents appear to experience a wider range of emotions than the comparison sample and were more likely to experience a confluence of state emotions of sadness and anger under stressed conditions.

CONCLUSION: Adolescent delinquents appear to have a different experience of negative emotions than comparison adolescents. The experience of emotions appears to differ in state and trait conditions. These emotions may be related to childhood experiences of trauma.

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