Social information processing skills link executive functions to aggression in adolescents with mild to borderline intellectual disability [2018]

Executive Functions (EFs) have been associated with aggression in children and adolescents. EFs as higher-order cognitive abilities are assumed to affect cognitive functions such as Social Information Processing (SIP). We explored SIP skills as a mediating mechanism linking EFs to aggression in adolescents with mild to borderline intellectual disability (MBID with IQ from 50–84), a high risk group for aggressive behaviors and EF impairments. A total of 153 adolescents (Mage = 15.24, SD = 1.35; 54% male) with MBID participated. Focused attention, behavioral inhibition, and working memory were tested with multiple neurocognitive tasks to define latent EF constructs. Participants responded to a video-based SIP task. A latent construct for aggression was defined by caretaker, teacher, and adolescent self-reports of aggression (Child Behavior Check List, Teacher Report Form, and Youth Self Report). Structural equation modeling was performed to test mediation. Results were consistent with mediation of the relation between focused attention and aggression by SIP, namely via hostile interpretations and self-efficacy for aggression. Behavioral inhibition was linked to aggression, but this relation was not mediated by SIP. The relation between working memory and aggression was mediated by SIP, namely via hostile interpretations, aggressive response generation and via self-efficacy for aggressive responses. Bearing the cross-sectional design in mind, support was found for SIP skills as a mechanism linking EFs, in particular focused attention and working memory, to aggression, providing a viable explanation for the high vulnerability of adolescents with MBID for aggression.

Maaike M. Van Rest, Walter Matthys, Maroesjka Van Nieuwenhuijzen, Marleen H.M. De Moor, Aart Vriens & Carlo Schuengel

Child Neuropsychology: A Journal on Normal and Abnormal Development in Childhood and Adolescence, 16 Jul 2018