Facing stress and conflict: a comparison of the predicted responses and self-concepts of aggressive and nonaggressive people with intellectual disability

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The present research consisted of two studies. A total of 44 participants were involved in the first study: 22 individuals with problems of aggression (Ag) and 22 non-aggressive (NAg) individuals. A sentence completion test was used to explore whether there were differences between the two groups' predicted coping responses in stressful situations. While the Ag group provided most aggressive responses, the NAg participants were more assertive. However, gender differences also emerged, with women proving to be less aggressive. A high number of passive answers were given across all the groups, suggesting that background experience could have influenced the participants' sense of efficacy in stressful situations. In the second study, a subsample of the participants were interviewed. The aim was to explore whether particular background experience coloured their perceptions of self and others, in situations of conflict. While nine out of the 10 Ag participants described incidents where they felt treated in a derogatory manner which could be linked to their disability, only two out of the nine NAg participants felt slighted in this fashion. Hence, a vulnerable sense of self could contribute to greater sensitivity in interpersonal situations, increasing the likelihood of an aggressive response. The clinical relevance of this work is discussed, alongside the possibilities for future research in this area.

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