A Model of Aggressive Behavior: Early Adversity, Impulsivity, and Response Inhibition

James W. Madole, Sheri L. Johnson, Charles S. Carver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Exposure to adverse environments during childhood is robustly linked to future aggressive behavior. In this study we tested a model of emotional and neurocognitive mechanisms related to aggressive behavior in the context of childhood adversity. More specifically, we used path analysis to assess the distal contribution of childhood adversity and the more proximal contributions of emotion-related and non-emotion-related forms of impulsivity, and behavioral response inhibition to aggressive behavior. Participants were 180 undergraduates who completed well-validated self-report measures and an emotional version of the Go/No-Go task. The structural equation model was a poor fit for the data (χ2(3) = 23.023, p<. 001; RMR = .131; CFI = .682; RMSEA = .142), though several significant paths emerged. Childhood adversity, emotion-related impulsivity, and behavioral response inhibition displayed direct effects on aggression, collectively accounting for 16.3% of variance. Findings demonstrate the specificity of emotional subtypes of impulsivity in linking childhood adversity and aggression. This study extends work on pathways to aggressive behavior by illustrating the complex relationships of early environmental, cognitive, and emotional mechanisms related to aggression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)594-610
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 27 2020


  • Aggression
  • adversity
  • emotion
  • impulsivity
  • response inhibition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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