Do impulsivity and alexithymia predict aggressiveness in institutionalized older adults?

Helena Espírito-Santo, Luís André Abreu Paraíso Ferreira, Henrique Manuel Testa Vicente, Marina Isabel Vieira Antunes da Cunha, Ana Alexandra Gonçalves Grasina, Fernanda Daniel, Laura Lemos


Introduction: Alexithymia and impulsivity are related and predict aggressiveness in younger adults, especially in forensic contexts. However, little is known about this relationship in older adults,
especially in geriatric institutionalized settings, where aggressiveness presents a high prevalence. Thus, we aimed to analyze the impact of impulsivity and alexithymia in institutionalized older adults’ aggressiveness after examining the relationships between these variables. Relevant variables were controlled for in these relations.
Methods: Ninety-seven institutionalized participants (60–94 years, 70.1% women, 59.8% nursing homes’ residents) were assessed with the Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire-SF, Toronto
Alexithymia Scale-20, and Barratt’s Impulsiveness Scale-15.
Results: The self-reported level of aggressiveness was low in our sample. Aggressiveness correlated with and was predicted by alexithymia (R2=17.6%; β=0.24, p<.05) and impulsiveness (R2=17.6%; β=0.34, p<.01).
Conclusion: Despite the low levels of aggressiveness (potentially explained by levels of medication, more supervision, and more frailty), our findings with institutionalized older adults demonstrate the relevance of alexithymia and impulsiveness for understanding aggressiveness in older adults, adding to previous studies with other types of populations. We provide directions for psychotherapeutic


Aggression, Alexithymia, Institutionalization, Nursing homes, Older people.

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