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Aggress Behav. 2007 Nov-Dec;33(6):552-62.

Human proactive aggression: association with personality disorders and psychopathy.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Wake Forest University Health Sciences, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157, USA.


Aggressive behaviors can be divided into two categories: reactive and proactive. Reactive aggressive behaviors occur in response to a stimulus or provocation. Proactive aggressive behaviors occur without provocation and are goal directed. A number of findings have suggested that individuals displaying proactive aggression may be discerned from individuals not displaying proactive aggression on measures of personality, psychopathology and psychopathy as well as in aggressive histories and type and severity of aggressive behaviors committed. In this study, subjects were recruited from a large urban community and classified as proactive (n = 20), reactive-only (n = 20) or nonaggressive (n = 10) based on laboratory behavioral testing. Subjects were administered a battery of questionnaires and structured interviews pertaining to personality disorders and psychopathy. It was hypothesized that proactive aggressive subjects would show greater numbers of personality disorders and have greater psychopathy relative to reactive-only and nonaggressive subjects. These hypotheses were supported. These results suggest that proactive aggression may be identified in a laboratory-based task, and differences between proactive and reactive-only aggressors can be detected.

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