Chronic anger as a precursor to adult antisocial personality features: The moderating influence of cognitive control

Samuel W. Hawes, Susan B. Perlman, Amy L. Byrd, Adrian Raine, Rolf Loeber, Dustin A. Pardini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Anger is among the earliest occurring symptoms of mental health, yet we know little about its developmental course. Further, no studies have examined whether youth with persistent anger are at an increased risk of exhibiting antisocial personality features in adulthood, or how cognitive control abilities may protect these individuals from developing such maladaptive outcomes. Trajectories of anger were delineated among 503 boys using annual assessments from childhood to middle adolescence (ages ~7-14). Associations between these trajectories and features of antisocial personality in young adulthood (age~28) were examined, including whether cognitive control moderates this association. Five trajectories of anger were identified (i.e., childhood-onset, childhood-limited, adolescent-onset, moderate, and low). Boys in the childhood-onset group exhibited the highest adulthood antisocial personality features (e.g., psychopathy, aggression, criminal charges). However, boys in this group were buffered from these problems if they had higher levels of cognitive control during adolescence. Findings were consistent across measures from multiple informants, replicated across distinct time periods, and remained when controlling for general intelligence and prior antisocial behavior. This is the first study to document the considerable heterogeneity in the developmental course of anger from childhood to adolescence. As hypothesized, good cognitive control abilities protected youth with persistent anger problems from developing antisocial personality features in adulthood. Clinical implications and future directions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-74
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Anger
  • Antisocial
  • Cognitive control
  • Development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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