Executive Dysfunction in Criminal Populations: Comparing Forensic Psychiatric Patients and Correctional Offenders [2018]

Background: Robust executive function (EF) deficits have been found in criminal groups and have been implicated as contributors to criminal behavior. A widely cited model of EF is made up of inhibition, shifting, and working memory. The current study compares these three EF components of two different criminal groups to one another and to a normative sample.

Methods: EF of 42 forensic psychiatric patients was assessed and compared with 77 correctional offenders. EF was determined using the Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS).

Results: Forensic psychiatric patients display poorer performance on EF compared to correctional offenders. Overall, forensic psychiatric patients perform most poorly on measures of shifting. Furthermore, a large proportion of both forensic psychiatric patients (9.5–35.7%) and correctional offenders (5.2–27.3%) display clinically significant deficits in all components of EF compared to what would be expected in the normative population (2.5%).

Conclusions/Implications: This study provides evidence of heterogeneity of cognitive deficits among different criminal populations and pervasive EF deficits in forensic and correctional populations compared to a normative sample. Understanding the unique EF profiles of different criminal groups can better inform rehabilitation programs and risk and release decisions.

Erin J. Shumlich, Graham J. Reid, Megan Hancock & Peter N. S. Hoaken

International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, 10 Sep 2018