Higher Autistic Traits Among Criminals, But No Link to Psychopathy: Findings from a High-Security Prison in Portugal

  • Diana Loureiro
  • Ana Machado
  • Tânia Silva
  • Tânia Veigas
  • Carlos Ramalheira
  • Joaquim Cerejeira
Original Paper

Abstract

The relationship between autism, criminality and psychopathy has gained increased attention in recent years, although research has focused on autism spectrum disorders, and not autistic traits. We measured autistic traits (with the Autism Spectrum Quotient) in a sample of 101 inmates from a high-security prison and compared them to a control group, using a logistic regression model that included age, education, psychopathology, psychopathy and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder as covariates. Prisoners had more autistic traits (OR 1.13, p = 0.002) due to higher scores in the communication (OR 1.23) and imagination (OR 1.30) domains. No correlations were found between autistic and psychopathic traits. Our study points to the presence of autistic traits as being independent risk factors for imprisonment, although not associated with psychopathy.

Keywords

Autism Adult Criminality Prison Psychopathy 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The author’s would like to acknowledge the assistance from the staff of the Coimbra Penitentiary.

Author Contributions

DL participated in the conception, design and coordination of the study, wrote the manuscript and collected data. AM, TS and TV all collected data and contributed to the manuscript. AM also participated in the study design. CR participated in the design of the study and conducted the statistical analysis. JC conceived and coordinated the study and reviewed the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Diana Loureiro declares that she has no conflict of interest. Ana Machado declares that she has no conflict of interest. Tânia Silva declares that she has no conflict of interest. Tânia Veigas declares that she has no conflict of interest. Carlos Ramalheira declares that he has no conflict of interest. Joaquim Cerejeira declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures (questionnaire) performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diana Loureiro
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ana Machado
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tânia Silva
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tânia Veigas
    • 2
  • Carlos Ramalheira
    • 1
    • 2
  • Joaquim Cerejeira
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Centro Hospitalar e Universitário de CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  2. 2.Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de CoimbraCoimbraPortugal

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