Empathic deficits and alexithymia in trauma-related impulsive aggression

Andra L. Teten, Lisa A. Miller, Sara D. Bailey, Nancy Jo Dunn, Thomas A. Kent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Our long term interest is to develop a developmental model of impulsive aggression based on a confluence of social, psychological and biological features. This approach incorporates neurobiological research, which has identified language processing deficits as a unique characteristic of impulsive aggressors and extends it to include emotional deficits. As an initial test of this hypothesis, we examined whether empathy and alexithymia were associated with impulsive aggression. Regressions were performed to explore the associations among impaired empathy, alexithymia, impulsive aggression, verbal and physical general aggression. Among impulsive aggressive veterans (n=38) recruited from a VA trauma clinic, alexithymia predicted impulsive aggression and empathic deficits predicted verbal aggression. Neither emotional awareness deficit predicted general physical aggression in this middle-aged sample. Results suggested that empathic deficits were associated with general verbal aggression, but alexithymia was uniquely associated with impulsive aggression. Consideration of alexithymia in impulsive aggression has implications for its etiology, prevention and treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)823-832
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioral Sciences and the Law
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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