The fact that instances of physical violence and other problematic behaviors tend to be four times as common among boys than in girls means that many studies and examinations have been focused on the former sex, though researchers are noting the importance of including study on girls, as well. Highlighting this need for more comprehensive research, a study recently performed at the University of Cambridge has found that teenage girls with symptoms of conduct disorder exhibit a reduced ability to identify anger and disgust in the facial expressions of others. The study shows a difference in the manifestation of such concerns in boys and girls; boys tend to begin to show signs of conduct disorder in childhood, and experience this same difficulty with facial expressions during this early period. Girls, on the other hand, are more likely to experience the onset of conduct disorder during their teenage years, whereas teenage boys do not show the same reduced recognition ability.
For the study, a group of girls ranging in age from fourteen to eighteen who had exhibited behavioral concerns including violent outbursts and the breaking of items in the home, physical fights, and even assault leading to a prison term were asked to identify the emotions of a series of faces presented to them. The girls with conduct disorder, as compared a group of controls, showed similar ability to recognize happiness, sadness, fear, and surprise, but were significantly less able to accurately identify anger and disgust. The researchers suggest that this may signify the presence of communication problems wherein violent girls are not aware that people are upset with them.
Warranting further study into the difference between conduct disorder in boys and girls and into potential treatments such as Multi-Systemic Therapy for addressing this concern, the study is sure to be an important milestone for adolescent psychology.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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