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Antisocial behaviour in adolescence: The role of reward processing

Morgan, Joanne E. 2012. Antisocial behaviour in adolescence: The role of reward processing. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Rewards are fundamental in directing our behaviour, yet maladaptive reward processing can lead to risky and impaired decision making. The nature of reward processing in individuals who display antisocial behaviour is poorly understood, particularly in adolescents. The present thesis examined reward processing in young male offenders involved in the criminal justice system. A multi-method approach to the examination of reward was adopted, using personality, neuropsychological and psychophysiological approaches. The heterogeneity of antisocial behaviour was explored by using self-report and official criminal records. The first study explored reward traits in young offenders (n=85) and non-offending controls (n=50). Trait reward drive was heightened in offenders and reward seeking traits positively predicted antisocial behaviour measures, while the response to reward was negatively associated with psychopathic traits and conduct problems. The second chapter focussed on neuropsychological and behavioural measures of reward and the results showed that young offenders (n=56) and matched controls (n=44) both demonstrated an increased preference for reward. However, reward seeking became deficient resulting in increased punishment for the young offenders only. The third study provided evidence that young offenders (n=33) are able to condition to reward but not to fear. The fourth study (n=66) explored descriptively the nature of substance use in young offenders; cannabis and alcohol were used frequently by a number of offenders and aspects of this behaviour were related to increased offence rate, and reward and psychopathic traits. In summary, the findings showed that young offenders differed from controls in terms of personality traits, neuropsychological and emotional functioning. Reward processing was altered in young offenders as a group compared to controls, but reward processing was not consistently associated with any particular dimension of antisocial behaviour. The results also supported past research on the importance of punishment insensitivity in antisocial behaviour. The research has extended the literature on biobehavioural factors associated with antisocial behaviour in adolescent offenders in the community and emphasises the importance of examining multiple dimensions of both reward and antisocial behaviour. The implications of these findings for policy and practitioners working with young offenders were discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 08 Oct 2019 02:27

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