Criminality and ADHD

Danish study evaluates the link between criminal behaviour and ADHD
20 April 2013


Old Bailey Justice


David -   So, the second paper I'd like to talk about is about the link between ADHD and criminal behaviour.  And this paper was published in the journal of Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health and it looks at the long term impacts of having ADHD from childhood. 

So, the lead author of this paper, Soren Dalsgaard and his colleagues in Denmark have used data from psychiatric clinics and the Danish National Crime Register to track the criminal records of 206 girls and boy diagnosed with ADHD and they tracked their criminal records up until the time that they're in their early 30s.  what they did with this information was to compare the criminal records of those diagnosed with ADHD against the records taken from the general population.

Hannah -   And so, did they find a link between criminality and ADHD?Old Bailey Justice

David -   Yeah, the results showed that the children diagnosed with ADHD were five times more likely to be convicted with a crime compared to the general population.

Hannah -   So, these results seem to send quite a strong message, but are there any limitations with this study do you think?

David -   Yeah, I mean, the paper is really good in some respects because it's a very wide national level study, but there are caveats that we need to consider.  The study focused on children with quite severe ADHD and as we know, this sort of varies in its severity, so we can't make generalised conclusions about ADHD based on these very specific cases.

Hannah -   That was David Weston from Cambridge University.  I return to Psychiatrist Dr. Sam Chamberlain to get his comments on that last news story.

Sam -   So, it's a really interesting paper and what it seems to be showing is that if you follow children with ADHD up over time, they are at increased risk of being involved in the criminal justice system and according to this research, it may be up to half of children with ADHD then at some point, have some contact with the criminal justice system.  And we know from research conducted elsewhere that treatment does seem to reduce that risk of getting in trouble with the police. 

I think this research and other research like it, really emphasises the need that we don't forget about ADHD in adults.  So, there's increasing awareness about ADHD in children, but still, I would argue, not enough awareness, but let's not forget the adults with the condition as well.


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