Project Details

Development of Hot and Cool Executive Functions in Chinese Delinquent Adolescents

Juvenile delinquency is a great problem in modern society. How it is understood and addressed will pose important implications for our society. Recent evidence suggests that delinquent behaviours relate largely to executive function (EF), which encompasses the cognitive skills necessary for goal-directed behaviour. Recent studies distinguish between hot EF (cognitive process driven by one’s emotional state) and cool EF (cognitive process without emotional influence and involve only logic and critical analysis). Although extant literature has confirmed the link between impairment in EF and delinquent behaviour, whether deficits in hot or cool EF constitute independent routes to various delinquency outcomes (e.g. onset, variety and severity) is still an unexplored area. Moreover, physiological findings suggest that adolescence may constitute a developmentally sensitive period for EFs. Hence, increased knowledge about the developmental course of EF over this critical period in a group of adolescent delinquents will be especially meaningful for understanding the etiology of delinquent behaviour. This 3-year longitudinal study represents a pioneer research that will contribute to the understanding of the developmental trajectories of various facets of EFs in a group of Chinese delinquent adolescents, and whether and how these functions have an impact on their delinquency outcomes. The current proposed longitudinal study will try to address two fundamental research questions: (1) What are the deficits and developmental trajectories of cool and hot EFs in a group of delinquents versus their non-delinquent peers? (2) How well do hot and cool EF deficits predict different delinquency outcomes? This project consists of 160 delinquent adolescents. Typically developing controls will also be recruited. Participants in the delinquent group will be recruited from juvenile institutions majorly comprising Schools for Social Development (SSD) in Hong Kong. Participants of the control group will be matched in age, gender, grade and socio-economic background and recruited from local secondary schools. This study will employ a comprehensive behavioural battery of both hot EF and cool EF tasks, administered over three time points. Data on delinquency outcomes (onset, severity and variety) will also be collected over the three time points. This is the first project to offer a more comprehensive picture of the development of cool and hot EFs among adolescent delinquents. In addition, an intervention protocol will be developed based on the findings of this study, which will serve as an invaluable basis for future development of an evidence-based intervention program for Chinese juvenile delinquents.

Commencement Date : 2015/9
Completion Date : 2017/3
Chief Investigator(s) : Dr POON, Kei Yan 潘紀恩 [SEC]
Keyword(s) : Delinquency   Executive Functioning   Adolescents  

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