Objective Assaultive behaviors are common among young people and have been associated with a range of other unhealthy, impulsive behaviors such as substance use and problem gambling. This study sought to determine the predictive ability of single assaultive incidents for impulse control disorders, an association that has yet to be examined, especially in young adults.
Methods The authors conducted a university-wide email survey in the spring of 2011 on 6000 university students. The survey examined assaultive behavior and associated mental health variables (using a clinically validated screening instrument, the Minnesota Impulsive Disorders Interview), stress and mood states, and psychosocial functioning.
Results The rate of response was 35.1% (n = 2108). 109 (5.9%) participants reported that they had assaulted another person or destroyed property at some time in their lives. Compared with respondents without lifetime assaultive behavior, those with a history of assaultive or destructive behavior reported more depressive symptoms, more stress, and higher rates of a range of impulse control disorders (intermittent explosive disorder, compulsive sexual behavior, compulsive buying, and skin picking disorder).
Conclusions Assaultive behavior appears fairly common among college students and is associated with symptoms of depression and impulse control disorders. Significant distress and diminished behavioral control suggest that assaultive behaviors may often be associated with significant morbidity. Additional research is needed to develop specific prevention and treatment strategies for young adults attending college who report problems with assaultive behaviors.
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