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European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

pp 1–10

First Online: 07 July 2017Received: 30 March 2017Accepted: 29 June 2017


Altered decision making processes and excessive risk-seeking behaviours are key features of conduct disorder CD. Previous studies have provided compelling evidence of abnormally increased preference for risky options, higher sensitivity to rewards, as well as blunted responsiveness to aversive outcomes in adolescents with CD. However, most studies published to date have focused on males only; thus, it is not known whether females with CD show similar alterations in decision making. The current study investigated potential sex differences in decision making and risk-seeking behaviours in adolescents with CD. Forty-nine adolescents with CD 23 females and 51 control subjects 27 females, aged 11-18 years, performed a computerised task assessing decision making under risk—the Risky Choice Task. Participants made a series of decisions between two gamble options that varied in terms of their expected values and probability of gains and losses. This enabled the participants’ risk preferences to be determined. Taking the sample as a whole, adolescents with CD exhibited increased risk-seeking behaviours compared to healthy controls. However, we found a trend towards a sex-by-group interaction, suggesting that these effects may vary by sex. Follow-up analyses showed that males with CD made significantly more risky choices than their typically developing counterparts, while females with CD did not differ from typically developing females in their risk-seeking behaviours. Our results provide preliminary evidence that sex may moderate the relationship between CD and alterations in risk attitudes and reward processing, indicating that there may be sex differences in the developmental pathways and neuropsychological deficits that lead to CD.

KeywordsConduct disorder Antisocial behaviour Sex differences Decision making Risk Reward Edmund J. S. Sonuga-Barke and Graeme Fairchild: Joint senior authorship.

This article is part of the focused issue ‘Conduct Disorder and Aggressive Behaviour in Children and Adolescents’.

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Autor: Justina Sidlauskaite - Karen González-Madruga - Areti Smaragdi - Roberta Riccelli - Ignazio Puzzo - Molly Batchelor - Harri


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