Psychopathology in adolescent and young adult criminal offenders (15–21 years) in Sweden
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This study examined rates of psychopathology among adolescent and young adult serious offenders referred to pre-sentence forensic psychiatric services and compared patterns of psychiatric morbidity with adult forensic referrals and age-matched general psychiatric inpatients.
In Sweden, criminal offenders can be referred for an extensive court-ordered pre-sentence inpatient forensic psychiatric examination (FPE). Data on all 3,058 of these offenders (90% male, mean age = 35.3 years) during 1997–2001 were obtained from the National Board of Forensic Medicine. We compared DSM-IV psychiatric diagnoses across age bands 15–17 years (N = 60), 18–21 years (N = 300) and 22 years and older (N = 2,698). Comparative data by age bands were also obtained for inpatient diagnoses among individuals admitted to general psychiatric hospitals.
Compared with the adult forensic psychiatric examinees, those aged 15–17 years and 18–21 years had higher rates of depression, and childhood and developmental disorders but lower rates of psychosis, bipolar disorder, and substance use disorders. Compared with general psychiatric inpatients, offenders aged 15–17 years had higher prevalences of depression and attention-deficit or disruptive disorders and lower ones of alcohol and drug misuse disorders.
There are significant differences in patterns of psychiatric morbidity in adolescent and young adult offenders that come into contact with psychiatric services compared with older offenders and adolescent psychiatric inpatients. This suggests that the development of health services addressing the psychiatric needs of younger offenders needs to draw on information on their specific mental health needs.
Key wordsadolescent crime violence homicide mental health services
Seena Fazel was supported by the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Mental Healthcare NHS Trust. Niklas Långström is supported by the Swedish Research Council–Medicine.
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