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The relationship between personality, anger expression, and perceived family control among incarcerated male juveniles.

The Occurrence of Delinquency

Since 1927, the U.S. Children's Bureau has circulated estimates on the prevalence of juvenile offenders within the United States. In the 1930s the estimate was 200,000; in 1950, the number was 450,000; by 1966 the estimate was over 1,000,000. During the last two decades, the Federal Office of Youth Development has reported a significant increase in the number of juvenile offenders. In 1984, the number of arrests for adolescents under the age of 18 had exceeded 2,000,000, with the most common offense being larceny/theft. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicated that the majority of crimes by juveniles were property-related, although there was a trend toward violent crime as the youths became older. More recent statistics reveal that arrest rates for adolescents have declined since 1997 but still remain high (CDC, 2000).

In terms of ethnicity, African-American males are more likely to be arrested than any other group. Various theories have been proposed to explain the differences in delinquency rates for African-Americans and whites. One theory includes targeting of minority populations by police (Males, 1998); another suggests that ethnicity is not an important causal factor (Quay, 1987), but that African-Americans and whites differ on a number of precursors to delinquency. These precursors may include low family income and poor parental child-rearing behavior. It has been argued that because of the high proportion of African-American single-parent households, there is less parental control and supervision.

These statistics may represent only the "tip of the iceberg" in terms of actual reporting. Not all delinquent behavior is detected and the acts that are officially recorded do not represent a random sample. Official statistics provide only a limited index of juvenile delinquency; however, they may be useful in indicating trends for research and/or intervention. Family structure appears to be an important factor, even with imperfect data.

Family Structure and Delinquency Among Adolescents

A family model of emotional development of African-American children has been proposed by Barbarin (1993), which suggests that social incompetence and behavior disorders are the result of the interaction of daily stress and coping. The parent-child relationship is viewed in this model as a precursor of coping skills, and is itself influenced by socioeconomic status and other demographic and personality variables. Family involvement, control, support, and socialization are identified by this model as important dimensions of the emotional development of African-American children.

A large number of studies over a 50-year period have attempted to examine the family structure of violent youth. These studies have traditionally found that the family variables which contribute the most to aggressiveness and delinquency include parental criminality, poor parental supervision, cruel or neglecting attitudes, erratic or harsh discipline, marital conflict, and large family size (Bahr, 1979, 1991; McCord & McCord, 1959; West & Farrington, 1973; Wilson, 1980).

Studies have also examined the role of family interaction patterns and the general emotional environment with respect to delinquency. These studies have tended to conclude that delinquents are more likely to be raised in families which tend to exhibit more conflict and less stable family interaction patterns (Alexander, 1973; Faunce & Riskin, 1970). Lewis, Lovely, Yeager, and della Femina (1989) found that the most violent adolescents were from physically abusive households. In fact, in their study, histories of abuse and/or family violence were found to be the best predictors of adult violent crimes.

The emotional environment of the home is also important in distinguishing delinquents from nondelinquents (Veneziano & Veneziano, 1992). In general, families of delinquents are more likely than families of nondelinquents to express rejecting attitudes and to exhibit a lack of warmth and affection (West & Farrington, 1973; Farrington, 1992). In terms of parental discipline styles, the parents of delinquents are likely to be more punitive, to give more vague commands, and to be less effective in stopping children's deviant behaviors (Patterson, 1982; Patterson, DeBarsyshe, & Ramsey, 1989). Singer (1974) concluded that a configuration of very restrictive family policy, lax policing, and lenient punishing are more common among the families of delinquents.

Veneziano and Veneziano (1992) examined the family functioning of male juvenile delinquents using the Family Environment Scale (FES). They found that the families of delinquents were not characterized by an absence of structure. In fact, these families established rules and procedures, but they had a hard time implementing their rules due to inappropriate or ineffective monitoring and disciplining. They also found that the subset of delinquents who lived in homes with a higher degree of conflict tended to exhibit more severe difficulties. Veneziano and Veneziano concluded that delinquents are not a homogeneous population in terms of presenting symptomatology, and need a multidimensional assessment approach when complex constructs such as family dynamics are an issue.

The current study examined the degree to which certain personality features may be overrepresented in male adolescents at risk for further arrest and violence. It also examined the relationships between affective presentation, personality factors, and family variables among at-risk adolescents.



The participants were 99 male adolescents between 13 and 18 years of age. They were incarcerated in detention centers located in North Central Florida, South Central Alabama, and North Georgia. After receiving informed consent, the data were collected and demographic information such as age, ethnic affiliation, family organization (e.g., single parent, dual parent) and occupation of parent were obtained.


Prior to testing, the participants were oriented to the proper administration protocol and the nature of the procedures in a group format.

If students had difficulty understanding the official procedure, it was explained to them on an individual basis. An institutional review board scrutinized all procedures before testing commenced.

The measures involved in this research project were administered in a small group setting at the detention centers. Participants were assigned to groups based on reading level, which was assessed from each participant's academic record. Those with a reading level above the sixth grade were administered the tests in their usual, standardized format. For those with a reading level below the sixth grade, an audiotaped version of the test measures was administered. The time required to complete all of the test procedures was between 60 and 90 minutes. Those who completed all the test measures received a five-dollar certificate for use at a local restaurant.


Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-A). The MMPIA (Williams & Butcher, 1989) was developed for adolescents as a personality instrument that better reflected their perspective on life and stage of human development compared to the original MMPI that was designed for adults. The original version of the MMPI-A contained 704 items and was used for adolescent normative data collection in a clinical sample described by Williams and Butcher (1989). The final version contained 478 items, which included all items on the basic scales, as well as a number of new items that were unique for adolescents. Content scales and supplementary scales are not obtainable in the first 350 items, but require administration of the full MMPI-A.

State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory (STAXI) . The STAXI (Spielberger, 1988) is used to assess the experience and expression of anger. One of the primary reasons the STAXI was developed was to provide a technique for examining the components of anger that can be utilized for evaluations of normal personalities and personality disorders.

The STAXI is composed of 44 items, from which several major scales can be derived: State Anger (10 items), Trait Anger (10 items), Anger-In (8 items), Anger-Out (8 items), and Anger Control (8 items).

The State Anger scale was designed to measure the magnitude of anger felt at the time of testing. The Trait Anger scale assesses an individual's disposition to experience anger in different situations. Anger-In measures the frequency with which an individual is likely to restrain angry feelings because he or she is uncertain of what to do with the angry affect. Conversely, Anger-Out assesses how often an individual expresses anger to other people or objects. Anger Control measures an individual's frequency of controlling the feeling of anger. Anger Expression is the conglomerate, and assesses general angry affect regardless of the direction of the expression.

The Trait Anger scale has alpha reliability coefficients ranging between .82 and .89. The Anger Expression scale has demonstrated high internal consistency, with alpha coefficients between .70 and .84. Studies have demonstrated almost no correlation between the Anger-In and Anger-Out scales in samples of high school and college students. Test-retest reliability coefficients range between .64 and .86 (Spielberger, 1988).

State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). The STAI (Spielberger, 1966) is used to evaluate an individual's experience of anxiety. Completion time for the STAI ranges from 10 to 20 minutes. It assesses two indices of anxiety: State Anxiety (10 items) and Trait Anxiety (10 items).

The Trait Anxiety scale has been found to have alpha reliability coefficients of .90 for both male and female high school students. The State Anxiety scale was reported to yield alpha coefficients of .86 for high school males and .94 for high school females (Spielberger & Sydeman, 1994, pp. 298).

Spielberger recommends that the State Anxiety scale be administered first, followed by the Trait Anxiety scale, because the State Anxiety scale is sensitive to the conditions under which the test is administered and can be influenced by feelings created by the Trait Anxiety scale.

Family Environment Scale (FES). The FES (Moos & Moos, 1987) is a 90-item test designed to assess three dimensions of family functioning. The first is the relationship dimension, which is global and attempts to reflect several areas such as belonging, pride, open expression, and conflict. Another dimension is personal growth and development. Central to this theoretical dimension are such areas as autonomy, academics, competitions, family activities, and religious emphasis. The final dimension is system maintenance, which centers around the structure and organization of the family, and assesses the amount of control perceived by each family member. The FES is a self-report device that can be administered independently to individual family members.


The experimental hypothesis states that adolescents at risk for violence are a heterogeneous group in terms of personality presentation. It was predicted that these adolescents would fall into distinct groups based on MMPI-A scale scores. A secondary hypothesis states that these groups will differ on the following four variables: anger expression, trait anxiety, family control, and trait anger.

Statistical Analyses

A hierarchical cluster analysis was conducted with the following scales of the MMPI-A: F, K, L, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10. The centroid linkage method was utilized because of the way it can maximize compact clusters composed of similar cases. The single linkage method was excluded due to the fact that it has a tendency to form long, elongated clusters (Aldenderfer & Blasbfield, 1984). Ward's method was not used because when the sample size approaches 100 cases, it generates solutions that are strongly influenced by profile elevations (Aldenderfer & Blashfield, 1984). Squared Euclidean distances were utilized in order to maximize the dissimilarity of unlike clusters. This followed the experimental hypothesis that adolescents at risk for violence are a heterogeneous group in terms of personality presentation.

A second set of analyses consisted of several one-way ANOVAs to further describe the personality cluster groups. Using the groups as the independent variable, differences in the four dependent variables (anger expression, trait anxiety, family control, and trait anger) were examined. Additional analyses were conducted with anger-in, anger-out, and anger control as dependent variables. Personality cluster group remained the independent variable.


Sample Characteristics

The average age of the sample was 16 years. The average educational level was 10th grade with a standard deviation of 1.2; 60.9% described themselves as African American, 31.5% as white, 5.2% as Latino, 1.1% as Native American, and 1.1% as other. In addition, 22.8% resided with their biological parents, 31.5% resided with one biological parent and one stepparent, 33.6% resided with a single parent (29.3% were single mothers), and 12% had other family arrangements. These other arrangements included additional family members such as grandparents, aunts or uncles, or foster parents. Of those children who lived with at least one of their biological parents, 80.4% had parents who were employed and 19.6% were described as unemployed.

Information from the MMPI-A is presented in Table 1. Overall, mean T-scores were at a subclinical level, with significant variability.

Cluster Analysis

The results of the initial cluster analysis suggested a three-cluster solution. Therefore, the null hypothesis was rejected. Table 2 presents the mean MMPI-A T-scores for the three clusters.

Cluster 1 is characterized by a mildly elevated F scale and a subclinical elevation on Scale 4 of the MMPI-A. This cluster is midway between the other two clusters in profile elevation. Cluster 2 had the most elevated profile, with mean scores in the clinical range on five clinical scales. Cluster 3 was marked by having a profile in the normal range; scores were significantly lower than for the other two clusters on several scales. This confirms the hypothesis that the groups are heterogeneous with respect to personality.

Cluster Type and Dependent Variables

To address the second hypothesis that the individual cluster types would be distinct on a number of affective and familial variables, a series of one-way ANOVAs were run with cluster type as an independent variable (see Table 3). The first one-way ANOVA was conducted with anger expression as the dependent variable and cluster type (three-cluster solution) as the independent variable. Results indicated a statistically significant difference between the personality cluster types and the amount of anger expression, F(2, 96) = 7.65, p < .05. Both Cluster 1 and 2 were significantly elevated when compared with Cluster 3. However, Cluster 1 and Cluster 2 were not significantly different from each other.

A one-way ANOVA was conducted with trait anger as a dependent variable and personality cluster type as an independent variable. The results appeared to show a relationship between the personality cluster types and trait anger, F(2, 96) = 7.42, p < .05. Clusters 1 and 2 were significantly elevated compared to Cluster 3. However, Cluster 1 and Cluster 2 were not statistically distinct from each other in terms of elevation.

A one-way ANOVA was conducted with trait anxiety as the dependent variable and personality cluster type as the independent variable. The resulting analysis suggested a strong relationship between the personality cluster type and the perception of anxiety, F(2, 96) = 20.68, p < .05. Clusters 1 and 2 were significantly elevated when compared to Cluster 3 in terms of anxiety. However, Cluster 1 and Cluster 2 were not significantly different from each other.

A one-way ANOVA was conducted with family control as a dependent variable and personality cluster type as an independent variable. Results suggested that there is no relationship between the personality cluster types and levels of family control, F(2, 96) = .09, p > .05. The means for all three groups on family control were statistically similar.


This study was conducted in order to better understand possible psychopathological personality patterns in adolescents at risk for violence. In addition, the study sought to better understand the possible relationship between affective variables, such as anger and anxiety, and family control in a select sample of adolescents at risk for violence. Demographic information collected on the present sample demonstrated that the majority of the sample was African-American. In addition, the majority of the sample either was raised in a single-parent family or other nontraditional family arrangement, such as a biological parent and a stepparent. For those who lived with at least one biological parent, the vast majority had parents who were employed. Since most of the participants were African-American, the demographic information suggests a sampling bias regarding ethnicity on referrals to detention centers. The extent of this bias on test results, particularly the theoretical constructs, is unknown.

The first hypothesis stated that the overall sample of adolescents at risk for violence would be heterogeneous in terms of personality data gathered from the MMPI-A. This hypothesis was tested utilizing a hierarchical, agglomerative cluster analysis (centroid linkage method). A "stopping technique" formulated by Mojena (1977) and later by Mojena and Wishart (1980) indicated the presence of a three-cluster solution. An analysis of the three-cluster solution was conducted examining the overall MMPI-A validity and clinical scales. Cluster 1 had no clinical elevations on any of the validity scales or the clinical scales. However, there were subclinical elevations on the F scale, Scale 4 (Psychopathic Deviate) and Scale 6 (Paranoia). This is in direct contrast to Cluster 2. Cluster 2 had clinical elevations (scale elevation > 65) on the F scale, Scale 1 (Hypochondriasis), Scale 2 (Depression), Scale 6 (Paranoia), Scale 7 (Psychasthenia), and Scale 8 (Schizophrenia). In addition, there were subclinical elevations on Scale 3 (Hysteria), Scale 4 (Psychopathic Deviate), and Scale 9 (Hypomania). Last, Group 3 had no clinical elevations on any validity or clinical scales of the MMPI-A. The majority of the MMPI-A scales for Cluster 3 were near the central T-score mean of 50.

Cluster 1 had elevated, yet subclinical (> 60) T-scores on three Hathaway and Monachesi (1963) "excitatory" scales (F, 4, and 6). For the purpose of discussion, they were termed the Subthreshold group. In contrast, Cluster 2 had elevated (> 65) T-scores on three Hathaway and Monachesi "excitatory" scales (F, 6, and 8) as well as subclinical (>60) T-scores on two scales (4 and 9). Cluster 2 also had elevated T-scores on two "inhibitory" scales (2 and 7). They were termed the Mixed group. Finally, Cluster 3 had no clinical or subclinical elevations on any scale. They were termed the Non-Elevated group. Based upon the original model suggested by Hathaway and Monachesi, one would have expected an excitatory group to have higher T-scores and hypothesized the presence of a purely Inhibitory group. Since Hathaway and Monachesi (1963) and Williams and Butcher (1989) posited that excitatory scales would have a greater influence over inhibitory scales, one would predict that Cluster 2 would have higher rates of acting -out. Since Cluster 1 had minor elevations on excitatory scales, one would predict higher rates of acting-out than Cluster 3, which according to the model would have low rates of acting-out. Acting-out was not measured directly in this study by examining rates of violent behavior, although it was examined indirectly through the self-report of anger styles. One would hypothesize that Cluster 1 and Cluster 2 would have higher Trait Anger (hostility) and Anger-Out scores compared to Cluster 3.

In examining the available personality cluster types, the only one that clearly distinguishes itself is Cluster 2. From a subjective standpoint, Clusters 1 and 3 do not appear to be clearly distinct from each other. However, one-way ANOVAs were conducted to verify the separation of these three clusters from a more objective standpoint.

Theoretically, it is interesting that Clusters 1 and 2 were distinct on personality variables yet similar on affective variables (anger expression, trait anger, and trait anxiety). One would expect the personality cluster group with the highest and greater number of clinical elevations to have the highest anger expression score. However, for this study, this was not the case. Hypothetically, this could be explained by the fact that the behavioral manifestations of anger expression may be different for the two groups. This would mean that Cluster 1 may have more socially acceptable outlets for anger than Cluster 2. Examining individuals in terms of a structured interview designed to gather information about the ways they react to situations when angry or upset could develop this hypothesis further. Gathering behavioral information (such as voice characteristics, speech patterns or eye contact) from each group could contribute more information about possible distinct manifestations for groups with high levels of anger expression. Cluster 3 was relatively similar to Cluster 1 in terms of personality presentation but distinct when it came to anger expression. Cluster 3 was low on the majority of measures but had a degree of defensiveness as measured by Scale K. It could be that the low anger expression scores are the result of defensiveness. Again, additional information, such as that provided in an interview, would be useful to examine if this hypothesis is valid. The interview could tease out information about verbal style or reactions to anger-provoking situations. Another possibility is that Cluster 3 is indeed low on anger expression and that other factors present in the environment (e.g., poverty, poor role models) placed adolescents into the criminal justice system.

Trait anger was found to have a significant relationship with the personality cluster types. Clusters 1 and 2 were distinct from Cluster 3 but not dissimilar to each other. Hypothetically, it would be interesting if Cluster 1 and Cluster 2 differ in their presentations of hostility. Specifically, does one deal with angry feelings in differing, more socially appropriate ways than the other? Questions arise as to why one group that readily acknowledges psychological distress and one group claiming no particular distress have the same level of affective responding to paper-and-pencil inventories. If this question is asked then the other question would be: How can two groups so similar in terms of personality variables have such different levels of affective responding?

Familial levels of control were not found to be distinct among any of the three personality cluster groups. The lack of variability suggests that all three groups perceive the same levels of control. The familial component of control seems to have little relationship to differing levels of personality presentation. This result was unexpected given the results of the Veneziano and Veneziano (1992) study, which concluded that most children they tested grew up in households high in control. This study failed to find the same high levels of control within our sample. One explanation for the different findings could be subtle differences between this sample and the sample in the Veneziano and Veneziano study.

In contrast, anxiety appears to have a statistically significant relationship with personality cluster type. Clusters 1 and 2 had higher long-standing anxious feelings as compared to Cluster 3. Coupled with information already gathered from anger expression and trait anger, the findings suggest that Clusters 1 and 2 are affectively reactive and the nature of this reactivity is chronic.

Hathaway and Monachesi termed the "inhibitory" scales the neurotic scales and predicted that if a child was elevated on anxiety dimensions, the rates of acting-out would be lower. However, the present study contradicts that finding in that there were high levels of anxiety and anger for both groups. This suggests a more complex relationship between anxiety, anger, and acting-out than anxiety being inhibitory and anger being expressive. The results suggest that both contribute to acting-out behavior. Future research is needed to more fully investigate this finding.

Clusters 1 and 2 were distinct on personality variables but not distinct at all on certain affective variables. Clusters 1 and 3 were not extremely distinct on personality variables but were extremely distinct on affective variables. A conservative view would be that personality variables contribute to understanding only a subgroup of this population but not the majority of the population. Affective variables, particularly those of a long-standing reactive nature, appear to add more to the understanding of these adolescents, which might aid future intervention and prevention strategies.

This is somewhat consistent with Barbarin's (1993) family model of emotional development. It would be expected among this sample of juvenile detainees that while they are heterogeneous in personality and affective variables, they are similar in family influences.

These findings provide additional detail regarding the interrelations of personality and affective variables among adolescent males. However, it was also expected that family control would differentiate the groups, but this hypothesis was not supported. Family control was similar across groups. Overall, among male delinquents, elevated psychopathology is associated with higher anger and anxiety, but not with higher family control.
Table 1

Mean MMPI-A T-Scores and Standard Deviations for the Validity and
Clinical Scales

 M SD Minimum Maximum

F Scale 61.64 11.23 40 68
K Scale 50.38 9.51 32 78
L Scale 55.27 10.29 37 85
Scale 1 55.24 10.09 41 92
Scale 2 56.73 10.38 32 81
Scale 3 52.39 9.72 31 82
Scale 4 61.29 10.14 44 99
Scale 5 46.08 7.65 30 64
Scale 6 60.50 13.44 35 107
Scale 7 54.29 9.55 32 78
Scale 8 57.54 12.15 34 92
Scale 9 57.26 12.20 32 100
Scale 10 50.56 8.13 30 67
Table 2

Mean MMPI-A T-Scores (and Standard Deviations) for Three Personality

 Cluster 1 Cluster 2 Cluster 3

F Scale 61.91 (a) 78.07 (b) 52.52 (a)
 (8.61) (8.68) (6.30)

K Scale 49.93 (a) 46.07 (a) 54.15 (a)
 (10.27) (6.71) (7.67)

L Scale 54.64 (a) 55.93 (a) 57.26 (a)
 (9.66) (13.53) (9.28)

Scale 1 (Hypochondriasis) 54.87 (a) 66.93 (b) 48.41 (a)
 (8.39) (11.59) (5.55)

Scale 2 (Depression) 56.05 (a) 71.27 (b) 50.67 (a)
 (9.16) (9.15) (5.59)

Scale 3 (Hysteria) 51.73 (a) 61.07 (b) 48.93 (a)
 (9.61) (7.80) (7.44)

Scale 4 (Psychopathic Deviate) 63.86 (b) 63.73 (b) 54.59 (a)
 (8.56) (13.27) (8.48)

Scale 5 (Masculinity-Femininity) 46.22 (a) 48.00 (a) 44.33 (a)
 (7.94) (6.40) (7.50)

Scale 6 (Paranoia) 61.13 (b) 78.00 (c) 48.59 (a)
 (10.11) (12.35) (5.49)

Scale 7 (Psychasthenia) 55.71 (a) 65.20 (b) 45.19 (a)
 (7.94) (7.00) (5.86)

Scale 8 (Schizophrenia) 57.22 (a) 75.47 (b) 47.48 (a)
 (8.42) (10.56) (7.92)

Scale 9 (Hypomania) 59.22 (a,b) 63.60 (b) 50.47 (a)
 (11.25) (14.09) (9.07)

Scale 10 (Social Introversion) 51.45 (a) 56.07 (a) 45.04 (a)
 (7.45) (6.43) (7.59)

Note. Different superscripts indicate significantly different means at
the .05 level.
Table 3

Mean Affective and Familial Scores (and Standard Deviations) for the
Three Personality Clusters

 Cluster 1 Cluster 2 Cluster 3

Anger Expression 33.02 (b) 32.54 (b) 25.28 (a)
 (7.52) (10.40) (8.62)

Trait Anger 23.92 (b) 23.85 (b) 18.72 (a)
 (5.31) (7.08) (5.81)

Family Control 51.92 (a) 52.08 (a) 53.00 (a)
 (10.30) (10.14) (10.97)

Trait Anxiety 46.08 (b) 50.77 (b) 35.12 (a)
 (8.39) (7.04) (8.34)

Note. Different superscripts indicate significantly different means at
the .05 level.


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Anthony F. Greene, Fielding Institute, Florida.

Harold O. Braithwaite, Department of Psychology, Morehouse College.

Reprint requests to Charlton J. Coles, Department of Social Sciences, Shawnee State University, The Commons Building, Room 119, Portsmouth, Ohio 45662. Electronic mail may be sent to
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Author:Coles, Charlton J.; Greene, Anthony F.; Braithwaite, Harold O.
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Date:Jun 22, 2002
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