Title

Executive Functioning in Violent and Nonviolent Juvenile Delinquents

Year

2010

Season

Summer

Paper Type

Master's Thesis

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Arts in General Psychology (MAGP)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Michael J. Herkov

Second Advisor

Jacob M. Vigil

Department Chair

Michael P. Toglia

College Dean

Dr. Barbara A. Hetrick

Abstract

Executive functions (EF) have been defined as the mental faculties that “enable a person to engage successfully in independent, purposive, selfserving behavior" (Lezak, 2004, p. 35). These abilities are therefore necessary for voluntary goal attainment and for allowing individuals to mentally simulate and hence anticipate future events and to adapt to changing situations. Executive functions are regulated primarily by the frontal cortex, which is not fully developed until early adulthood, and includes the cognitive abilities to make decisions, and inhibit impulsive responding. Cognitive immaturity and presumed deficits in EF have therefore been highlighted as explaining individual differences in adolescent delinquency and overall risktaking behaviors. In the current study EF in violent and nonviolent juvenile delinquents were compared utilizing an integrated neuropsychological measure (Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System). Results indicate violent offenders present unique deficits in EF and biases in social cognition that differentiate them from their nonviolent peers. In general, EF was inversely correlated with criminality. The results suggest that certain neuropsychological deficits may contribute to the etiology of violent crime.

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