Externalizing psychopathology and persistence of offending in childhood first-time arrestees

Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2012 May;21(5):243-51. doi: 10.1007/s00787-012-0257-x. Epub 2012 Feb 24.


This study aims to investigate the predictive validity of externalizing psychopathology for persistence in delinquent behavior when controlling for socio-demographic and first arrest characteristics in childhood first-time arrestees. A sample of first-time arrestees aged under 12 (n = 192) was assessed using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children (DISC-IV) parent-version on attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder (CD). Based on child and parent reports of offending as obtained at arrest and at 2-year follow-up, three groups of offenders were differentiated: (1) persistent high (n = 48), (2) occasional (n = 62), and (3) persistent low offenders (n = 82). Over one-third of the sample (33.9%) was diagnosed with an externalizing disorder, and 13.5% with both ADHD and ODD or CD. Higher levels of externalizing psychopathology distinguished persistent high offenders from occasional (comorbid ADHD and ODD/CD: OR 8.2, CI 2.6-25.5) and persistent low offenders (comorbid ADHD and ODD/CD: OR 18.2, CI 4.6-72.3; ADHD: OR 4.1, CI 1.3-13.0), over and above socio-demographic and first offense characteristics. Living with both biological parents distinguished the persistent low offenders from the occasional offenders (OR 2.5, CI 1.2-5.0). Since the prevalence of externalizing disorders was high and predicted re-offending, mental health screening and intervention initiatives, aiming at these conditions, should be investigated for this high-risk sample.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology
  • Attention Deficit and Disruptive Behavior Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Attention Deficit and Disruptive Behavior Disorders / epidemiology
  • Attention Deficit and Disruptive Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Comorbidity
  • Conduct Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Conduct Disorder / epidemiology
  • Conduct Disorder / psychology
  • Criminals / psychology*
  • Family / psychology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Parents
  • Prevalence