Childhood psychiatric disorders and young adult crime: a prospective, population-based study.
OBJECTIVE: While psychopathology is common in criminal populations, knowing more about what kinds of psychiatric disorders precede criminal behavior could be helpful in delineating at-risk children. The authors determined rates of juvenile psychiatric disorders in a sample of young adult offenders and then tested which childhood disorders best predicted young adult criminal status. METHOD: A representative sample of 1,420 children ages 9, 11, and 13 at intake were followed annually through age 16 for psychiatric disorders. Criminal offense status in young adulthood (ages 16 to 21) was ascertained through court records. RESULTS: Thirty-one percent of the sample had one or more adult criminal charges. Overall, 51.4% of male young adult offenders and 43.6% of female offenders had a child psychiatric history. The population-attributable risk of criminality from childhood disorders was 20.6% for young adult female participants and 15.3% for male participants. Childhood psychiatric profiles predicted all levels of criminality. Severe/violent offenses were predicted by comorbid diagnostic groups that included both emotional and behavioral disorders. CONCLUSIONS: The authors found that children with specific patterns of psychopathology with and without conduct disorder were at risk of later criminality. Effective identification and treatment of children with such patterns may reduce later crime.
Copeland, WE; Miller-Johnson, S; Keeler, G; Angold, A; Costello, EJ
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