Executive Functioning in Violent and Nonviolent Juvenile Delinquents





Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Arts in General Psychology (MAGP)



First Advisor

Dr. Michael J. Herkov

Second Advisor

Dr. Jacob M. Vigil

Department Chair

Dr. Michael P. Toglia

College Dean

Dr. Barbara A. Hetrick


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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