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Warriors and worriers: Gender and psychopathology

  • Carolyn Zahn-Waxler (a1)


Antisocial behaviors in females may differ from more prototypically “male” patterns of aggression, violence, and criminality that dominate criteria for conduct problems in diagnostic systems. This raises questions of how to define and investigate conduct problems in females as well as how to identify differential childhood antecedents. A developmental psychopathology perspective is advanced as one useful approach to understanding adaptive and maladaptive social patterns in males and females that may lead to different developmental trajectories and influence the forms of psychopathology that develop. The utility of de-emphasizing serious physical aggression as one important criteria for conduct problems is questioned. Recommendations that particular forms of deviance in females be considered as markers of their antisocial patterns (e.g., somatic complaints, friendlessness, underachievement) are also called into question. Rather than adopt sex-specific criteria to assess conduct problems, it is necessary to expand and broaden the diagnostic categories to include serious externalizing problems regardless of whether they occur in males or females.


Corresponding author

Address reprint requests to: Carolyn Zahn-Waxler, Ph.D., Building 15K, NIH, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20892.


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Development and Psychopathology
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