Violent teenage girls fail to spot anger or disgust in others' faces

May 6, 2010
Violent teenage girls fail to spot anger or disgust in others' faces

(PhysOrg.com) -- Girls appear to be "protected" from showing antisocial behaviour until their teenage years, new research from the University of Cambridge has found.

The study sheds new light on in girls compared with boys and suggests that rather than violence or antisocial behaviour simply reflecting bad choices, the brains of people with antisocial behaviour may work differently from those who behave normally.

Until now, little research has been done on antisocial behaviour (Conduct Disorder) in girls. According to Dr Graeme Fairchild of the University of Cambridge, one of the study's authors: "Almost nothing is known about the of severe antisocial behaviour in girls. Although less common in girls than boys, UK crime figures show that serious violence is increasing sharply in female adolescents."

The study, published online this month in , compared a group of 25 girls, aged 14-18 years-old, with high levels of antisocial and/or with a group of 30 healthy controls.

"Most of our participants had major difficulties controlling their temper, lashing out and breaking things around their homes when they got angry, and had often been involved in serious fights. Several had convictions for violent offences and some had been to prison for assault," Dr Fairchild explains.

Dr Fairchild and colleagues measured the girls' ability to recognise the six primary - anger, disgust, sadness, fear, surprise and happiness. They found that girls with antisocial behaviour made a large number of errors when asked to recognise anger and disgust, but had no problems recognising other facial expressions.

According to Dr Fairchild: "Our findings suggest that antisocial behaviour or violence may not simply reflect bad choices but that, at some level, the brains of individuals with antisocial behaviour may work differently. This might make it harder for them to read emotions in others - particularly to realise that someone is angry with them - and to learn from punishment."

The study also shows that although girls and boys with severe antisocial behaviour have the same problems recognising emotions, the girls - whose problems began when they were teenagers - more closely resembled boys whose antisocial behaviour began in childhood.

Boys with childhood-onset Conduct Disorder have difficulties recognising and disgust, but those with adolescence-onset Conduct Disorder do not.

"This suggests that there are interesting differences in antisocial behaviour between girls and boys, with girls being protected from showing antisocial behaviour until their teenage years for reasons we don't yet understand," Dr Fairchild says.

The next phase of the research involves a scanning study. "As far as we know, this will be the first functional neuroimaging study ever carried out in girls with severe antisocial behaviour," Dr Fairchild says.

Around five percent of school-age children would meet criteria for Conduct Disorder, but it is approximately three to four times more common in boys than . A range of factors - ranging from physical abuse in childhood to being diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder - make it more likely that someone will develop Conduct Disorder.

It is difficult to treat using psychological therapy, and there are no effective drug treatments, but a new form of therapy called Multi-Systemic Therapy is currently being trialled in the UK and shows promise in treating antisocial behaviour.

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5 comments

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Caliban
3 / 5 (4) May 06, 2010
Another "disease" to be "treated" with another BigPharma "designer drug", no doubt.

No mention of comprehensive toxicology or physiological screening. May these girls/boys have elevated hormone or possible envirotoxin levels? Are they "supersexed" individuals with more than normal numbers of X/Y chromosomes? Were home/family influences taken into account?

What is in dire lack in most of these studies is a holistic approach to the identification and understanding of these various pathologies- instead, they are described in the literature, and then a drug is developed to overwhelm the syptoms/behaviors- usually with pronounced, initially known, side effects- and long-term effects that aren't apparent initially.

There is also the problem of these treatments creating permanently disabled, un-rehabilitatible individuals. Society pays the costs, and Pharma and it's minions take the profits.

Limited benefit at increasing cost. Sliding-Scale Evil.
ormondotvos
3 / 5 (3) May 06, 2010
Or, responsible doctors could look at the risk benefit ratio and save some lives from a descending spiral of conflict and incarceration.

It's easy to be ideological when you're not crazy. Although I kinda think ideological thinking is crazy.
SincerelyTwo
not rated yet May 06, 2010
Imagine what this means for every other perspective, holy crap @ fractal like influences of all our behaviors. We are all constantly being conditioned by those around us as we condition them.
ghanster
not rated yet May 07, 2010
@Caliban

Did you even read the article? It says there is no drug based treatment. Not only that, but the most effective treatment (Multisystemic Therapy) is one that addresses the environmental causes of these disorders (in case you actually feel like researching what you are saying before going on a knee-jerk tirade). So yeah, they are taking a holistic approach and then focusing on the most effective treatment techniques. Contrary to what you seem to think, not all medical research is done by Pharmaceutical companies, and not all researchers are evil, close-minded corporate pushers.
Caliban
1 / 5 (1) May 07, 2010
@ghanser,

Perhaps you would be better served to actually read up on MST. While the modality includes intensive family/child, peer/child, institution/child, and environment/child behavior mod vectors, it also most definitely includes pharmaceuticals, as indicated:

http://www.minddi...apy.html

Before you lose your temper again, maybe think of how MST may have benefited you during your formative years.

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