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Aggressive Responding in Convicted Felons as a Function of Sociopathy and Anxiety

NCJ Number
T J Fagan
Date Published
69 pages
This study examines the relationship between anxiety, sociopathy, and aggressive responding; results point out differences between primary and secondary sociopaths along stimulus seeking, internal arousal, and avoidance learning dimensions.
Sixty male inmates, 18 to 28 years of age, served as subjects. They were divided into four groups which were characterized as (1) primary sociopaths (2) secondary sociopaths, (3) high anxious nonsociopaths, and (4) low anxious nonsociopaths. Behavioral measures based on disciplinary reports and severity ratings of current offense were used to assess frequency, intensity, and type of aggressive responding employed by inmates. In addition, the Adjustment to Prison Scale was used as a second means of assessing aggressive tendencies, and the Inhibition of Aggression Scale was used to assess ability to inhibit aggressive responding. Results indicated that with increasing anxiety, sociopathic inmates decreased their frequency, intensity, and socially inappropriate aggressive responding while nonsociopathic inmates increased their frequency, intensity, and socially inappropriate aggressive responding. A further analysis of this interaction showed that primary sociopaths aggressed most frequently, intensely, and in the most socially unacceptable fashions followed by secondary sociopathic and high anxious nonsociopathic inmates. Sociopathic inmates displayed greater maladjustment and fewer inhibitions. The study has clinical implications for the screening of potentially aggressive inmates early in their incarceration. Also, it suggests therapeutic approaches for the treatment of inmate aggressiveness. Tables and approximately 45 references are provided. Appendixes contain the study instrument. (Author abstract modified)