Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 375–389 | Cite as

Loss and Grief among Persistently Delinquent Youth: The Contribution of Adversity Indicators and Psychopathy-Spectrum Traits to Broadband Internalizing and Externalizing Psychopathology

  • Amy E. Lansing
  • Wendy Y. Plante
  • Audrey N. Beck
  • Molly Ellenberg


Despite profound adversity exposure (loss, trauma) among delinquents, with adversity linked to early-onset persistent delinquency [EOPD], externalizing syndromes (Conduct Disorder) continue to overshadow impairing internalizing syndromes. Three understudied factors potentially contribute to both syndromes among delinquents: bereavement-related distress [BRD] from death-exposures; psychopathy-spectrum traits associated with system-involvement; and emotional abuse, implicated in lifespan morbidities. Therefore, we characterized loss/BRD among 107 EOPD adolescent girls and boys, comparing: (1) psychopathology and maltreatment (emotional, physical and sexual abuse); and (2) adversity-related (BRD, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD], maltreatment) and psychopathy-spectrum predictors of internalizing and externalizing syndromes. Death exposure was common, resulting in developmental disruptions (school difficulties: 49.4%) and clinically significant BRD (33.8%), with girls evidencing greater BRD severity. BRD and psychopathy-traits, not PTSD, positively predicted all youths’ internalizing, and boys’ externalizing, syndromes. More frequent physical abuse increased both syndromes among boys. Emotional abuse alone predicted girls’ externalizing syndromes, highlighting the contribution of this overlooked maltreatment-type.


Grief and bereavement-related distress Child maltreatment Emotional abuse Broadband internalizing and externalizing syndromes Psychopathy Early-onset persistent delinquent youth 



This work was supported by the National Institute of Child and Human Development grants K01HD051112, R01HD066161, and R01HD066161-01S1 and − 05S1 Diversity Supplements. The project was also partially supported by the National Institutes of Health, University of California, San Diego’s [UCSD] Clinical and Translational Research Institute, Grants UL1TR000100 and 1UL1RR031980-01. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NIH. We are also appreciative for support received from UCSD’s Academic Senate Health Sciences Research Grant Committee. We thank our participants for their time and willingness to participate, our talented project staff, and the San Diego County Probation Department for their cooperation.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical Standards

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation [institutional and national] and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amy E. Lansing
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wendy Y. Plante
    • 1
    • 2
  • Audrey N. Beck
    • 2
  • Molly Ellenberg
    • 1
  1. 1.University of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA
  2. 2.San Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA

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