Trait-aggressiveness and impulsivity: role of psychological resilience and childhood trauma in a sample of male prisoners

Vladimir Carli, Laura Mandelli, Leonardo Zaninotto, Siegfried Alberti, Alec Roy, Alessandro Serretti, Marco Sarchiapone
Nordic Journal of Psychiatry 2014, 68 (1): 8-17

BACKGROUND: One of the major challenges for research in the field of human aggression is the need to define the role of personality and trait-like dimensions, such as impulsivity and aggressiveness, in predisposing to violent behavior.

AIMS: 1) To determine whether trait- aggressiveness and impulsivity may be associated with socio-demographic, clinical and crime history variables in a sample of male prisoners; 2) to detect any association of those traits with measures of early traumatic experiences and current resilience traits.

METHODS: A sample of male prisoners (n = 1356) underwent the Brown-Goodwin Assessment for Lifetime History of Aggression (BGLHA) and the Barratt Impulsivity Scale (BIS). Axis I psychiatric disorders were also assessed. Early traumatic experiences and psychological resilience were detected respectively by the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) and the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC). Two non-linear logistic regression models were performed to test for the best predictors of trait-aggressiveness and impulsivity.

RESULTS: Subjects with a history of substance use disorders and self-mutilation reported both higher BGLHA and BIS scores. Axis I disorders and suicide attempts were associated with aggressiveness, but not to impulsivity. A consistent correlation was found between BGLHA scores and early traumatic experiences. Resilience was positively correlated to impulsivity but not to aggressiveness scores.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results support the view that aggressiveness and impulsivity are two different, albeit related trait-like dimensions of personality, having a different relationship with resilience, and, inferentially, a different impact over the development of psychiatric disorders.

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