Neurodevelopmental disorders in prison inmates: comorbidity and combined associations with psychiatric symptoms and behavioural disturbance

Psychiatry Res. 2018 Mar:261:109-115. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2017.12.036. Epub 2017 Dec 15.


The identification and management of inmates with neurodevelopmental disorders (ND) has been insufficiently addressed in the literature. We estimated the proportion of cases with Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Intellectual disability (ID) in prison, their comorbidity, and associations with disruptive behaviours and with psychiatric symptoms. Further, we examined the role of coexisting ND on psychiatric symptoms and attitudes toward violence. All 390 male inmates underwent an assessment that included the Diagnostic Interview for ADHD in Adults 2.0, the Autism Quotient, the Learning Disability Screening Questionnaire, the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI), and measures of disruptive behaviours and attitudes towards violence. The percentage of cases with ADHD, ASD and ID were 25%, 9% and 9%. Inmates with ADHD and those with ID had significantly higher levels of disruptive behaviours. The combined ADHD/ASD group had significantly higher scores on global severity symptoms than either ADHD or ASD only. Meanwhile, the combined ADHD/ID group had significantly higher scores of behavioural disturbance than the ADHD-only group. Our findings show the extent of ND in prison, their inter-relations and associations with further mental health problems. Vulnerabilities conferred by ND within the criminal justice system should be addressed via interventions and preventative strategies.

Keywords: ADHD; Autism; Intellectual disability; Neurodevelopmental disorders; Prison.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology
  • Attitude
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Prisoners / psychology
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data*
  • Problem Behavior
  • Violence / psychology
  • Young Adult