Ethics and Behavior 15 (3):259 – 269 (2005)
Although less observable than the overt actions of fighting and assault, covert antisocial behaviors such as stealing and property destruction comprise an important subclass of externalizing behavior patterns, displaying considerable predictive power toward delinquency in adolescence. I discuss a laboratory paradigm for objective observation of such behaviors in children that has shown impressive concurrent and predictive validity among samples of boys with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Addressed herein are crucial questions regarding the ethics of tempting children to steal objects and small amounts of money and to deface property as well as the types of informed consent and debriefing procedures utilized in research with this paradigm. Weighing ethical considerations alongside the ability to predict delinquent behavior presents provocative issues for those interested in understanding the development of antisocial behavior.
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