Childhood ADHD Linked to Criminal Behavior in Adults
More study needed to see if medical treatment cuts rates of illegal activities, researchers say
-- Robert Preidt
MONDAY, Oct. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely than other children to engage in criminal activity when they grow older, a U.S. study has found.
The study included more than 10,000 adolescents who were later surveyed in adulthood. It found that youngsters with ADHD were twice as likely to commit theft later in life and were 50 percent more likely to sell drugs.
The findings, believed to be the first evidence of a link between ADHD and criminal activity, were published online Sept. 30 in the Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics.
"While much research has shown links between ADHD and short-term educational outcomes, this research suggests significant longer-term consequences in other domains, such as criminal activities," study lead author Jason M. Fletcher, an assistant professor at the Yale School of Public Health, said in a university news release.
"We also found important differences in the association between adult crime and the type of childhood ADHD symptoms -- whether hyperactive or inattentive or both," he said.
Crimes where ADHD is a factor may cost the nation $2 billion to $4 billion a year, estimates have indicated.
Fletcher and colleagues plan to investigate whether drug treatments may reduce the illegal activities associated with ADHD in adulthood. The researchers also plan to study the associations between childhood ADHD symptoms and later employment and earnings.
ADHD, which affects between 2 percent to 10 percent of U.S. schoolchildren, is far more common in males than females. It's also more prevalent in people who have close relatives with the condition, suggesting a genetic origin, the study authors noted in the news release.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about ADHD.
SOURCE: Yale University, news release, Oct. 19, 2009
Copyright (c) 2009 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.
Online ISSN: 1099-176X Print ISSN: 1091-4358
The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics
Volume 12, Issue 3, 2009. Pages: 119-138
Published Online: 30 September 2009
Copyright (c) 2009 ICMPE.
Long-term Consequences of Childhood ADHD on Criminal Activities
Jason Fletcher,1* Barbara Wolfe2
1Ph.D., Yale University, School of Public Health, New Haven, CT, USA
2Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Economics, Department of Population Health Sciences, and La Follette School of Public Affairs, Madison, WI, USA
* Correspondence to: Jason Fletcher, Ph.D., YaleUniversity, School of Public Health, 60 College Street # 303, New Haven, CT06520, USA.
Tel.: +1-203-785 5760
Fax: +1-203-785 6287
Source of Funding: This research was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health under Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award T32 MH18029-20 from the National Institute of Mental Health.
The question of whether childhood mental illness has long term consequences in terms of criminal behavior has been little studied, yet it could have major consequences for both the individual and society more generally. In this paper, we focus on Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), one of the most prevalent mental conditions in school-age children, to examine the long-term effects of childhood mental illness on criminal activities, controlling for a rich set of individual, family, and community level variables. The empirical estimates, consistent with economic models of crime that predict that those with less “legal” human capital are more likely to choose to engage in illegal activity, show that children who experience ADHD symptoms face a substantially increased likelihood of engaging in many types of criminal activities. An included “back-of-the-envelope” calculation of the social costs associated with criminal activities by individuals with childhood ADHD finds the costs to be substantial.
Background: Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most prevalent mental health problems facing children. Little is known of the long-term consequences of ADHD on young adult outcomes.
Aims of the Study: We examine the associations between childhood ADHD symptoms and criminal activities as a young adult.
Methods: We use a nationally representative study of US adolescents and logistic regression analysis to examine our research question. We also control for common family factors using sibling random and fixed effects and test the robustness of our results in several ways.
Results: The empirical estimates show that children who experience ADHD symptoms face a substantially increased likelihood of engaging in many types of criminal activities. An included calculation of the social costs associated with criminal activities by individuals with childhood ADHD finds the costs to be substantial.
Discussion: Our study provides the first evidence using a nationally representative dataset of the long term consequences on criminal activities of childhood ADHD. Our results are quite robust to a number of specification checks. Limitations of our study include that our measures of ADHD are retrospective, we have no information on treatment for ADHD, and it remains possible that our results are confounded by unmeasured variables.
Implications: Our results suggest that children showing ADHD symptoms should be viewed as a group at high risk of poor outcomes as young adults. As such, a good case can be made for targeting intervention programs on this group of children and conducting evaluations to learn if such interventions are effective in reducing the probability that these children commit a crime. Development of such intervention programs and evaluating them for efficiency could be dollars well spent in terms of crime and drug abuse averted.
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