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J Abnorm Child Psychol. 1998 Dec;26(6):511-9.

Cognitive impairment and its relationship to psychopathic tendencies in children with emotional and behavioral difficulties.

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University College London, England.


This study investigated whether performance on the card playing task (Newman, Patterson, & Kosson, 1987) and the moral/conventional distinction measure predict level of childhood conduct problems as indexed by the Psychopathy Screening Device (Frick & Hare, in press). The card-playing task indexes the child's sensitivity to changes in reinforcement rate. The moral/conventional distinction measure indexes the child's sensitivity to the difference between moral transgressions which result in harm to another from conventional transgressions which more usually result in social disorder. The Psychopathy Screening Device indexes a behavioral syndrome that consists of two dimensions: affective disturbance and impulsive and conduct problems. Thirty-nine children with emotional and behavioral difficulties were presented with both measures. Performance on both measures did predict extent of behavioral disturbance. Moreover, there was a significant association between performance on the card playing tasks and the moral/conventional distinction. The results are interpreted within the response set modulation and violence inhibition mechanism models and by reference to recent work at the anatomical level.

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