Predicting delinquency by self-reported impulsivity in adolescents in Ghana

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Abstract

Background

Impulsivity is one of several variables associated with delinquent and criminal acts, but its utility depends on the psychometric properties of the measure used.

Aim

To investigate the latent structure of the abbreviated Barratt Impulsivity Scale (ABIS) and its convergent validity with measures of aggression and psychopathy in a Ghanaian sample.

Methods

In a cross-sectional survey, high school students were recruited from two randomly selected schools in Ghana and asked to respond to the ABIS and measures of delinquency, aggression and psychopathy.

Results

Three hundred and sixty-three young people, aged 15–19 were recruited, 149 (41%) boys. Findings supported a three-factor (attention, motor and non-planning) structure of impulsivity, which did not differ by sex. Motor and attentional impulsivity were associated with both violent and general delinquent behaviours. Impulsivity scores also correlated with aggression and psychopathy scores, thus providing evidence of convergent validity.

Conclusion

The ABIS was shown to have sound psychometrics in a standard Ghanaian secondary school sample. Even in this group, where delinquency and antisocial behaviours were of low frequency, its motor and attention impulsivity scores were shown to have some relationship with violent and general delinquent behaviours, suggesting that the ABIS could be a useful tool across cultures for identifying adolescents at high risk of such problems and intervening early to limit damage.

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