The relationship between personality disorder traits and reactive versus proactive motivation for aggression

J. Lobbestael*, M. Cima, A. Lemmens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


There is a strong link between personality disorders (PDs) and aggression. This is reflected in high prevalence rates of PD diagnoses in forensic samples, and in several diagnostic criteria of PDs directly referring to elevated levels of aggression. Aggression can stem from two distinct types of motivation; reactive or impulsive aggression that serves as a defensive reaction to provocation, and proactive or premeditated aggression used to gain extrinsic benefits. Although some clinical conditions like antisocial, borderline, and narcissistic PDs or PD traits, have been empirically linked to reactive and/or proactive aggression, the current study pioneers assessing the relationship between reactive and proactive aggression and traits of all 10 PDs. A mixed sample of patient and non-patient (N=238) participants were administered with the SCID II to assess the level of PD traits; they also completed the Reactive Proactive Questionnaire to determine levels of reactive and proactive aggression. Results showed that paranoid PD traits were positively related to reactive aggression, whereas proactive aggression was uniquely related to antisocial PD traits. This highlights the importance of differentiating between distinct motivations for aggression in PD samples.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-160
JournalPsychiatry Research
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

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