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.
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The author’s would like to acknowledge the assistance from the staff of the Coimbra Penitentiary.
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.
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 was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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Loureiro, D., Machado, A., Silva, T. et al. Higher Autistic Traits Among Criminals, But No Link to Psychopathy: Findings from a High-Security Prison in Portugal. J Autism Dev Disord 48, 3010–3020 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-018-3576-z