Maladaptive Aggression: With a Focus on Impulsive Aggression in Children and Adolescents

Daniel F. Connor, Jeffrey H. Newcorn, Keith E. Saylor, Birgit H. Amann, Lawrence Scahill, Adelaide S. Robb, Peter S. Jensen, Benedetto Vitiello, Robert L. Findling, Jan K. Buitelaar

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objective: Aggressive behavior is among the most common reasons for referral to psychiatric clinics and confers significant burden on individuals. Aggression remains poorly defined; there is currently no consensus on the best ways to recognize, diagnose, and treat aggression in clinical settings. In this review, we synthesize the available literature on aggression in children and adolescents and propose the concept of impulsive aggression (IA) as an important construct associated with diverse and enduring psychopathology. Methods: Articles were identified and screened from online repositories, including PubMed, PsychInfo, the Cochrane Database, EMBase, and relevant book chapters, using combinations of search terms such as "aggression," "aggressive behavio(u)r," "maladaptive aggression," "juvenile," and "developmental trajectory." These were evaluated for quality of research before being incorporated into the article. The final report references 142 sources, published from 1987 to 2019. Results: Aggression can be either adaptive or maladaptive in nature, and the latter may require psychosocial and biomedical interventions when it occurs in the context of central nervous system psychopathology. Aggression can be categorized into various subtypes, including reactive/proactive, overt/covert, relational, and IA. IA in psychiatric or neurological disorders is reviewed along with current treatments, and an algorithm for systematic evaluation of aggression in the clinical setting is proposed. Conclusions: IA is a treatable form of maladaptive aggression that is distinct from other aggression subtypes. It occurs across diverse psychiatric and neurological diagnoses and affects a substantial subpopulation. IA can serve as an important construct in clinical practice and has considerable potential to advance research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)576-591
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of child and adolescent psychopharmacology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2019


  • aggression
  • impulsive aggression
  • maladaptive aggression
  • neurological disorders
  • psychiatric disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Maladaptive Aggression: With a Focus on Impulsive Aggression in Children and Adolescents'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this