Study of Violent Teenage Girls Shows Reduced Ability to Recognize Anger and Disgust in Faces

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 John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • M.Larson


    May 12th, 2010 at 1:07 PM

    There are so many issue wherein we have concentrated on just one side of the problem and have clearly ignored the other half because we never knew it would be much of a problem.But with the blurring of gender divide and new kind of behavior exhibit by youngsters of both the sexes,this strategy surely needs another thought.

  • tina


    May 13th, 2010 at 4:49 AM

    nope sorry these girls are just mean

  • Gabriel


    May 15th, 2010 at 8:55 AM

    Nobody is just mean, tina. We all have degrees of good and bad in us–even you. Some just veer more towards one extreme than the other. They need help, not to be dehumanized. These girls have no doubt heard that all their lives. Let’s give them a chance for the rest of it to be different.

  • ASmom


    May 15th, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    One of the traits found often in Aspergers Syndrome (AS) sufferers is face blindness. AS is about four times more common in boys than girls. The girls should be checked for that too.

  • Barb


    May 15th, 2010 at 5:10 PM

    Our children’s issues arise from their diet. I’m convinced of that. Feed them fresh foodstuffs and stop serving them all that processed, chemical stuffed food. Wholesome food leads to a wholesome body. All those additives and preservatives are doing who knows what to our children’s bodies and minds!

    Even if you don’t believe me, are you willing to risk me being right?

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