Lifetime criminality among boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a prospective follow-up study into adulthood using official arrest records

Psychiatry Res. 2008 Sep 30;160(3):237-46. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2007.11.003. Epub 2008 Aug 15.


This study investigates the relationship between childhood attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and later criminality. White boys (n=207, ages 6-12) with ADHD, free of conduct disorder, were assessed at ages 18 and 25 by clinicians who were blind to childhood status. A non-ADHD group served as comparisons. Lifetime arrest records were obtained when subjects were 38 years old for subjects who resided in New York State throughout the follow-up interval (93 probands, 93 comparisons). Significantly more ADHD probands than comparisons had been arrested (47% vs. 24%), convicted (42% vs. 14%), and incarcerated (15% vs. 1%). Rates of felonies and aggressive offenses also were significantly higher among probands. Importantly, the development of an antisocial or substance use disorder in adolescence completely explained the increased risk for subsequent criminality. Results suggest that even in the absence of comorbid conduct disorder in childhood, ADHD increases the risk for developing antisocial and substance use disorders in adolescence, which, in turn, increases the risk for criminal behavior in adolescence and adulthood.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / epidemiology
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology
  • Child Behavior Disorders / epidemiology
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Control Groups
  • Crime / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Crime / psychology
  • Crime / statistics & numerical data*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Forensic Psychiatry
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Juvenile Delinquency / psychology
  • Juvenile Delinquency / statistics & numerical data
  • Law Enforcement
  • Male
  • New York / epidemiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Control, Formal*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Young Adult