Childhood maltreatment and conduct disorder: Independent predictors of criminal outcomes in ADHD youth
Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at heightened risk for maltreatment in childhood and criminality as they enter into adolescence and early adulthood. Here, we investigated the effect of moderate to severe childhood maltreatment on later criminality among adolescents/young adults diagnosed with ADHD in childhood while accounting for the contributions of other known risk factors such as early conduct disorder (CD). Eighty-eight participants from a longitudinal study of children diagnosed with ADHD and screened for comorbid disorders at age 7–11 years were assessed for maltreatment histories at the time of the 10-year adolescent follow-up. Detailed juvenile and adult criminal records were obtained from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services approximately 3-years after commencement of the follow-up study. We used regression analyses to determine predictors of adolescent/young adult criminal behavior. Moderate to severe childhood maltreatment increased the risk of adolescent/young adult arrest over and above the risk associated with childhood CD, while both childhood maltreatment and childhood CD significantly increased the risk of recidivism. ADHD youth classified as maltreated were three and a half times more likely to be arrested when compared to ADHD youth without a maltreatment classification. We established maltreatment as a risk factor for criminality in ADHD youth and demonstrated that this relationship was independent of the contributions of CD, and established risk factor for antisocial behavior in this population. The findings highlight the need for maltreatment screening in children with ADHD in order to identify those at heightened risk for criminal activity, and target treatment to improve outcome in this high-risk group of children.