The Severe 5%: A Latent Class Analysis of the Externalizing Behavior Spectrum in the United States

Publication Abstract

Vaughn, Michael G., Matt DelLisi, Tracy Gunter, Qiang Fu, Kevin M. Beaver, Brian E. Perron, and Matthew O. Howard. 2011. "The Severe 5%: A Latent Class Analysis of the Externalizing Behavior Spectrum in the United States." Journal of Criminal Justice, 39(1): 75-80.

Objective Criminological research consistently demonstrates that approximately 5% of study populations are comprised of pathological offenders who account for a preponderance of antisocial behavior and violent crime. Unfortunately, there have been no nationally representative epidemiological studies characterizing the severe 5% group.

Materials and Methods Data from the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a nationally representative sample of 43,093 non-institutionalized U.S. residents aged 18 years and older were analyzed using latent class analysis to assess sociodemographic, psychiatric, and behavioral characteristics.

Results Four-classes of respondents were identified vis-à-vis lifetime externalizing behaviors. A normative class (66.1% of respondents) demonstrated little involvement in antisocial conduct. A low substance use/high antisocial behavior class (20.7% of respondents) and high substance use/moderate antisocial behavior (8.0% of respondents) class evinced diverse externalizing and psychiatric symptoms. Finally, a severe class (5.3% of respondents) was characterized by pathological involvement in more varied and intensive forms of antisocial and externalizing behaviors and extensive psychiatric disturbance.

Conclusions The current study is the first nationally representative epidemiological study of criminal careers/externalizing behavior spectrum in the United States and validates the existence of the 5% pathological group demonstrated by prior research.

DOI:10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2010.12.001 (Full Text)

PMCID: PMC3431912. (Pub Med Central)

Country of focus: United States of America.

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