Monday, November 26, 2007

Childhood mental-health problems and criminality

There is a high prevalence of mental illness among people involved with the juvenile and criminal justice systems but there is less information about which psychiatric disorders in childhood lead on to law-breaking later. A U.S. study of 1,420 children aged 9, 11 and 13 followed them up to the age of 16 to see whether they developed any mental-health problems and up to the age of 21 to see whether they got into trouble with the law. By the end of the study 31% of the sample had one or more adult criminal charges. Overall 51.4% of male young offenders and 43.6% of female offenders had a history of childhood mental-health problems. 20.6% of the crime attributed to young women and 15.3% of the crime attributed to young men was linked to childhood mental-health problems. Severe and/or violent offences were predicted by the presence of both an emotional and a behavioural disorder during childhood.

Copeland, William E. - Childhood psychiatric disorders and young adult crime : a prospective, population-based study American Journal of Psychiatry November 2007 164(11), 1668-1675

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