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The impact of ADHD and conduct disorder in childhood on adult delinquency: A 30 years follow-up study using official crime records

Marianne Mordre1*, Berit Groholt2, Ellen Kjelsberg3, Berit Sandstad4 and Anne Margrethe Myhre12

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Mental Health and Addiction, Oslo University Hospital, Norway

2 Institute for Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway

3 Centre for Forensic Psychiatry, Division of Mental Health and Addiction, Oslo University Hospital, Norway

4 Unit of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Oslo University Hospital, Norway

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BMC Psychiatry 2011, 11:57  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-11-57

Published: 11 April 2011



Few longitudinal studies have explored lifetime criminality in adults with a childhood history of severe mental disorders. In the present study, we wanted to explore the association between adult delinquency and several different childhood diagnoses in an in-patient population. Of special interest was the impact of disturbance of activity and attention (ADHD) and mixed disorder of conduct and emotions on later delinquency, as these disorders have been variously associated with delinquent development.


Former Norwegian child psychiatric in-patients (n = 541) were followed up 19-41 years after hospitalization by record linkage to the National Register of Criminality. On the basis of the hospital records, the patients were re-diagnosed according to ICD-10. The association between diagnoses and other baseline factors and later delinquency were investigated using univariate and multivariate Cox regression analyses.


At follow-up, 24% of the participants had been convicted of criminal activity.

In the multivariate Cox regression analysis, conduct disorder (RR = 2.0, 95%CI = 1.2-3.4) and hyperkinetic conduct disorder (RR = 2.7, 95% CI = 1.6-4.4) significantly increased the risk of future criminal behaviour. Pervasive developmental disorder (RR = 0.4, 95%CI = 0.2-0.9) and mental retardation (RR = 0.4, 95%CI = 0.3-0.8) reduced the risk for a criminal act. Male gender (RR = 3.6, 95%CI = 2.1-6.1) and chronic family difficulties (RR = 1.3, 95% CI = 1.1-1.5) both predicted future criminality.


Conduct disorder in childhood was highly associated with later delinquency both alone or in combination with hyperactivity, but less associated when combined with an emotional disorder. ADHD in childhood was no more associated with later delinquency than the rest of the disorders in the study population. Our finding strengthens the assumption that there is no direct association between ADHD and criminality.