Vol. 8, No. 2, 2002 Page 3

BACKGROUND: The ADHD/criminality connection

In 1997, James Satterfield and Anne Schell published an important study addressing the relationship between childhood hyperactivity and adult criminality. The researchers followed 89 hyperactive boys and 87 control subjects from childhood through young adulthood, and found that:

The researchers found that multiple juvenile arrests, arrests for felony crimes in adolescence, and incarceration as a juvenile predicted criminality in ADHD subjects in later life. "The younger the hyperactive subject at the time of the first felony arrest," they said, "the more likely he would become a chronic juvenile offender and eventually be arrested in adulthood."

Of the 89 hyperactive boys in the study, 73 exhibited conduct problems. Hyperactive children reported by parents to chronically lie, steal, or exhibit antisocial behavior were far more likely to become juvenile recidivists and to be arrested as adults than were other hyperactive subjects. "Our childhood and adolescent data suggest that hyperactivity in the absence of antisocial behavior does not indicate an increased risk for serious antisocial behavior in later life," the researchers concluded. "Hyperactive children are nevertheless at increased risk (five times normal) for developing conduct disorder, thus making them at increased risk for serious antisocial behavior in later life."


"A prospective study of hyperactive boys with conduct problems and normal boys: adolescent and adult criminality," James H. Satterfield and Anne Schell, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 36, No. 12, December 1997, 1726-35. Address: Anne Schell, Psychology Department, Occidental College, 1600 Campus Road, Los Angeles, CA 90041.

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