Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 553–569 | Cite as

Self-Reported Delinquency, neuropsychological deficit, and history of attention deficit disorder

  • Terrie E. Moffitt
  • Phil A. Silva


This study was designed to evaluate the possibility that a pattern of cognitive deficit is associated with delinquent behavior, while avoiding some of the methodological problems of previous research. The Self- Report Early Delinquency instrument and a research battery of neuropsychological tests were administered blindly to an unselected cohort of 678 13- year- olds. Because the diagnosis of attention deficit disorder (ADD) was found at markedly elevated rates in the backgrounds of these delinquents, the possibility was examined that the neuropsychological deficits of delinquents might be limited to delinquents with histories of ADD. Although delinquents with past ADD were more cognitively impaired than non-ADD delinquents, both groups scored significantly below nondelinquents on verbal, visuospatial, and visualmotor integration skills. In addition, ADD delinquents scored poorly on memory abilities. Subjects with ADD who had not developed delinquent behavior were not as cognitively impaired as ADD delinquents, suggesting that it is the specific comorbidity of ADD and delinquency that bears neuropsychological study.


Cognitive Deficit Attention Deficit Neuropsychological Test Methodological Problem Delinquent Behavior 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson, J., Williams, S., McGee, R., Silva, P. A. (1987). The prevalence of DSM-III disorders in a large sample of pre-adolescent children from the general population.Archives of General Psychiatry, 44, 69–81.Google Scholar
  2. Andrew, J. M., (1982). Memory and violent crime among delinquents.Criminal Justice and Behavior, 9, 364–371.Google Scholar
  3. Appellof, E. S., & Augustine, E. A. (1985). Prefrontal functions in juvenile delinquents.Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neurospychology, 7, 79–109.Google Scholar
  4. Benton, A. L., & Hamsher, K. (1976).Multilingual aphasia examination. Iowa City: University of Iowa.Google Scholar
  5. Berg, E. A. (1948). A simple objective test for measuring flexibility in thinking.Journal of General Psychology, 39, 15–22.Google Scholar
  6. Bornstein, R. A. (1986). Normative data on intermanual differences on three tests of motor performance.Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 8, 12–20.Google Scholar
  7. Brickman, A. S., McManus, M. M., Grapentine, W. L., & Alessi, N. (1984). Neuropsychological assessment of seriously delinquent adolescents.Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 23, 453–457.Google Scholar
  8. Buikhuisen, W. (1987). Cerebral dysfunctions and persistent juvenile delinquency. In S. A. Mednick & T. E. Moffitt (Eds.),The causes of crime: New biological approaches (pp. 168–184). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Campbell, S. B., & Werry, J. S. (1986). Attention deficit disorder (hyperactivity). In H. C. Quay & J. S. Werry (Eds.),Psychopathological disorders of childhood (pp. 111–155). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  10. Clements, S. D., & Peters, J. (1962). Minimal brain dysfunctions in the school-age child.Archives of General Psychiatry, 16, 185–197.Google Scholar
  11. Costello, A., Edelbrock, C., Kalas, R., Kessler, M., & Klaric, S. (1982).Diagnostic interview schedule for children-Child version. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Mental Health.Google Scholar
  12. Douglas, V. I. (1983). Attentional and cognitive problems. In M. Rutter (Ed.),Developmental neuropsychology (pp. 280–329). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  13. Elley, W. B., & Irving, J. C. (1972). A socio-economic index for New Zealand based on levels of education and income from the 1966 census.New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 7, 153–167.Google Scholar
  14. Elliot, F. A. (1978). Neurological aspects of antisocial behavior. In W. H. Reid (Ed.),The psychopath (pp. 146–189). New York: Brunner/Mazel.Google Scholar
  15. Farrington, D. P. (1983). Offending from 10 to 25 years of age. In K. T. Van Dusen & S. A. Mednick (Eds.),Prospective studies of crime and delinquency (pp. 17–38) Dordrecht: Kluwer-Nijhoff.Google Scholar
  16. Farrington, D. P., Loeber, R., & van Kammen, W. B. (1987, October 15).Long-term criminal outcomes of hyperactivity-impulsivity-attention deficit and conduct problems in childhood. Paper presented at the Meetings of the Society for Life History Research, St. Louis, MO.Google Scholar
  17. Flor-Henry, P. (1978). Laterality, shifts of cerebral dominance, sinistrality and psychosis. In J. Gruzelier & P. Flor-Henry (Eds.),Hemisphere asymmetries of function in psychopathology (pp. 182–203). Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  18. Grove, W. M. & Andreasen, N. C. (1982). Simultaneous tests of many hypotheses in exploratory research.Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 170, 3–8.Google Scholar
  19. Hare, R. D. (1984). Performance of psychopaths on cognitive tasks related to frontal lobe function.Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 93, 133–140.Google Scholar
  20. Heaton, R. K. (1981).A manual for the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.Google Scholar
  21. Hirschi, T., & Hindelang, M. J. (1977). Intelligence and delinquency: A revisionist review.American Sociological Review, 42, 571–587.Google Scholar
  22. Karniski, W. M., Levine, M. D., Clarke, S., Palfrey, J. S., & Meltzer, L. J. (1982). A study of neurodevelopmental findings in early adolescent delinquents.Journal of Adolescent Health Care, 3, 151–159.Google Scholar
  23. Klove, H. (1963). Clinical neuropsychology. In F. M. Foster (Ed.),The medical clinics of North America. New York: Saunders.Google Scholar
  24. Knights, R. M., & Moule, A. D. (1968). Normative data on the Motor Steadiness Battery for children.Perceptual and Motor Skills, 26, 643–650.Google Scholar
  25. Krynicki, V. E. (1978). Cerebral dysfunction in repetitively assaultive offenders.Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 166, 59–67.Google Scholar
  26. Lewinsohn, P. M. (1973).Psychological assessments of patients with brain injury. Unpublished manuscript, University of Oregon.Google Scholar
  27. Lewis, D. O., & Balla, D. A. (1976).Delinquency and psychopathology. New York: Grune and Stratton.Google Scholar
  28. Lezak, M. D. (1983).Neuropsychological assessment. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Loeber, R., & Dishion, T. (1983). Early predictors of male delinquency: A review.Psychological Bulletin, 94, 68–99.Google Scholar
  30. Loeber, R., & Stouthamer-Loeber, M. (1987).Prediction. In H. C. Quay (Ed.),Handbook of juvenile delinquency (pp. 325–382). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  31. Loney, J., Whaley-Klahn, M., Kosier, T., & Conboy, J. (1983). Hyperactive boys and their brothers at 21: Predictors of aggressive and antisocial outcome. In K. T. Van Dusen & S. A. Mednick (Eds.),Prospective studies of crime and delinquency (pp. 181–208). Dordrecht: Kluwer-Nijhoff.Google Scholar
  32. McGee, R. (1985).Response rates at Phase XI of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study. Unpublished report from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit, Otago Medical School, Dunedin, New Zealand.Google Scholar
  33. McGee, R., & Silva, P. A. (1982).A thousand New Zealand children: Their health and development from birth to seven. Special Report Series Number 8. Auckland: Medical Research Council of New Zealand.Google Scholar
  34. McGee, R., Williams, S., & Silva, P. A. (1985). Factor structure and correlates of ratings of inattention, hyperactivity, and antisocial behavior in a large sample of 9-year-old children from the general population.Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 53, 480–490.Google Scholar
  35. Mednick, S. A. (1978). Berkson's fallacy and high-risk research in schizophrenia. In L. C. Wynne, R. L. Cromwell, & S. Matthysse (Eds.),The nature of schizophrenia (pp. 442–452). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  36. Mednick, S. A., & Moffitt, T. E. (Eds.). (1987).The causes of crime: New biological approaches. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Mednick, S. A., & Volavka, J. (1980). Biology and crime. In N. Morris & M. Tonry (Eds.),Crime and justice: An annual review of research (Vol. 2). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  38. Milner, B. (1963). Effects of different brain lessions on card sorting.Archives of Neurology, 9, 90–100.Google Scholar
  39. Milner, B. (1965). Visually-guided maze learning in man: Effects of bilateral hippocampal, bilateral frontal, and unilateral cerebral lessons.Neuropsychologia, 3, 317–338.Google Scholar
  40. Moffitt, T. E., & Heimer, K. (1988).Factor analysis and concurrent validity for a neuropsychological assessment of 678 adolescents. Manuscript submitted for review.Google Scholar
  41. Moffitt, T. E., & Mednick, S. A. (1988).Biological contributions to crime causation. Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff.Google Scholar
  42. Moffitt, T. E., Mednick, S. A., & Gabrielli, W. F. (in press). Criminal violence: Descriptive data and predispositional factors. In D. Brizer & M. Crowner (Eds.)Current approaches to the prediction of violence. New York: American Psychiatric Association Press.Google Scholar
  43. Moffitt, T. E., & Silva, P. A. (1987).Self-reported early delinquency: Results from an instrument for New Zealand. Manuscript submitted for review.Google Scholar
  44. Moffitt, T. E., & Silva, P. A. (1988). Neuropsychological deficit and delinquency.Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 27, 233–240.Google Scholar
  45. Moos, R. (1974).Combined preliminary manual for the family, work, and group environmental scales. Palo Alto: Consulting Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
  46. Moscovitch, M. (1979). Information processing and the cerebral hemispheres. In M. S. Gazzaniga (Ed.),Handbook of behavioral neurobiology (Vol. 2, Neuropsychology) (pp. 173–189). New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  47. Osterreith, P. A. (1944). Le test de copie d'une figure complexe.Archives de Psychologie, 30, 206–356.Google Scholar
  48. Pontius, A. A., & Ruttiger, K. F. (1976). Frontal lobe system maturational lag in juvenile delinquents shown in narratives test.Adolescence 11, 509–518.Google Scholar
  49. Quay, H. C., & Peterson, D. R. (1977).Manual for the Revised Behavior Problem Checklist. Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami.Google Scholar
  50. Reitan, R. M. (1958). Validity of the Trail Making Test as an indication of organic brain damage.Perceptual and Motor Skills, 8, 271–276.Google Scholar
  51. Rey, A. (1941). L'examen psychologique dans les cas d'encephalopathie tramatique.Archives de Psychologie, 28, 286–340.Google Scholar
  52. Robbins, D. M., Beck, J. C., Pries, R., Jacobs, D., & Smith, C. (1983). Learning disability and neuropsychological impairment in adjudicated, unincarcerated male delinquents.Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 22, 40–46.Google Scholar
  53. Robins, L. N. (1966).Deviant children grown up. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins.Google Scholar
  54. Rutter, M. (1978). Family, area and school influences in the genesis of conduct disorders. In L. A. Hersov, M. Berger, & D. Shaffer (Eds.),Aggression and anti-social behaviour in childhood and adolescence (pp. 95–113). Oxford: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  55. Rutter, M., Tizard, J., & Whitmore, K. (1970).Education, health and behaviour. London: Longman.Google Scholar
  56. Ryan, J. J., Geisser, M. E., Randall, D. M., & Georgemiller, R. J. (1986). Alternate form reliability and equivalency of the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning test.Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 8, 611–616.Google Scholar
  57. Satterfield, J. H. (1987). Childhood diagnostic and neurophysiological predictors of teenage arrest rates: An eight-year prospective study. In S. A. Mednick & T. E. Moffitt (Eds.),The causes of crime (pp. 146–167). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  58. Satterfield, J. H., & Schell, A. M. (1984). Childhood brain differences in delinquent and non-delinquent hyperactive boys.Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 57, 199–207.Google Scholar
  59. Savitsky, J. C., & Czyzewski, D. (1978). The reaction of adolescent offenders and nonoffenders to nonverbal emotional displays.Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 6, 89–96.Google Scholar
  60. Schachar, R., Rutter, M., & Smith, A. (1981). The characteristics of situationally and pervasively hyperactive children: Implications for syndrome definition.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 22, 375–392.Google Scholar
  61. Scottish Council for Research in Education. (1976).The Burt Word Reading Test: 1974 revision. London: Hodder & Stoughton.Google Scholar
  62. Shanok, S. S., & Lewis, D. O. (1981). Medical histories of female delinquents.Archives of General Psychiatry, 38, 211–213.Google Scholar
  63. Skoff, B. F., & Libon, D. J. (1987). Impaired executive functions in a sample of male juvenile delinquents.Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 9, 60.Google Scholar
  64. Tarter, R. E., Hegedus, A. M., Winsten, N. E., & Alterman, A. I. (1984). Neuropsychological, personality, and familial characteristics of physically abused delinquents.Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 23, 668–674.Google Scholar
  65. Taylor, E. M. (1959).The appraisal of children with cerebral deficits. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  66. Waber, D. P., & Holmes, J. M. (1985). Assessing children's copy productions of the Rey-Osterreith Complex Figure.Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 7, 264–280.Google Scholar
  67. Wechsler, D. (1974).Manual of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised. New York: Psychological Corp.Google Scholar
  68. Weiss, G. (1983). Long-term outcome: Finding, concepts, and practical implications. In M. Rutter (Ed.),Developmental neuropsychiatry (pp. 422–436). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  69. Wender, P. (1971).Minimal brain dysfunction in children. New York: Wiley-Interscience.Google Scholar
  70. Werry, J. S. (1986). Biological factors. In H. C. Quay & J. S. Werry (Eds.),Psychopathological disorders of childhood (pp. 294–331). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  71. Wilson, J. Q., & Herrnstein, R. J. (1985).Crime and human nature. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  72. Wolff, P. H., Waber, D., Bauermeister, M., Cohen, C., & Ferber, R. (1982). The neuropsychological status of adolescent delinquent boys.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 23, 267–279.Google Scholar
  73. Wolfgang, M. E., Figlio, R. M., & Sellin, T. (1972).Delinquency in a birth cohort. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  74. Yeudall, L. T. (1980). A neuropsychological perspective of persistent juvenile delinquency and criminal behavior.Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 347, 349–355.Google Scholar
  75. Yeudall, L. T., Fromm-Auch, D., & Davies, P. (1982). Neuropsychological impairment of persistent delinquency.Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 170, 257–265.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Terrie E. Moffitt
    • 1
  • Phil A. Silva
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WisconsinMadison
  2. 2.Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research UnitUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations