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Unique Dispositional Precursors to Early-Onset Conduct Problems and Criminal Offending in Adulthood [2018]

Objective
The aims of this study were to examine whether dispositional interpersonal callousness, negative emotionality, and hyperactivity/impulsivity uniquely influence the development of childhood-onset conduct problems and persistent criminal behavior in males, and to determine whether specific facets of negative emotionality (dysregulated anger versus anxiety) in childhood are differentially associated with the development of chronic antisocial behavior.

Method
Childhood dispositional features and conduct problems were assessed semiannually using parent- and teacher-report measures across 9 consecutive assessments in a school-based sample of 503 boys (∼7–11 years of age). Participants’ criminal behavior was assessed using official records from adolescence into the early 30s.

Results
Interpersonal callousness, dysregulated anger, and hyperactivity/impulsivity were uniquely associated with the development of childhood-onset conduct problems. None of these features significantly predicted official records of juvenile offending after controlling for co- occurring conduct problems. However, interpersonal callousness was robustly and uniquely associated with a pattern of persistent and violent adult offending that continued into the early 30s. In contrast, anxiety problems were inversely associated with criminal offending in adolescence and adulthood after controlling for conduct problems and the other dispositional factors.

Conclusion
Findings are consistent with theoretical models indicating that interpersonal callousness, dysregulated anger, and hyperactivity/impulsivity influence the development of childhood conduct problems. In contrast, anxiety problems in childhood tend to reduce the likelihood that boys will engage in later criminal offending. Results suggest that delinquency prevention programs should target children exhibiting features of interpersonal callousness, given that they are at high risk for engaging in chronic and violent offending in adulthood.

Dustin A. Pardini PhD, Amy L. Byrd PhD, Samuel W. Hawes PhD, Meagan Docherty PhD
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 57, Issue 8, August 2018
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2018.04.013
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0890856718302788