Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 49, Issue 6, pp 2268–2280 | Cite as

Criminal Behavior and School Discipline in Juvenile Justice-Involved Youth with Autism

  • Alexandra M. Slaughter
  • Sascha Hein
  • Judy H. Hong
  • Sarah S. Mire
  • Elena L. GrigorenkoEmail author
Original Paper


The objective was to delineate the prevalence of criminal behavior and school discipline in juvenile justice-involved youth (JJY) with autism. A sample of 143 JJY with autism was matched to comparison groups of JJY without a special education classification, JJY with learning disabilities, and JJY with other special educational needs (N = 572). Results showed that JJY with autism committed significantly fewer property crimes. With regard to school discipline, JJY with autism were least likely to receive policy violations, out-of-school suspensions, and in-school suspensions. Finally, regardless of special education classification, JJY who had a history of fighting in school were more likely to recidivate. Our results suggest that JJY with autism are not more likely to commit crimes compared to JJY without SEN.


School Crime Discipline Autism Recidivism 


Author Contributions

AMS conceived of the study, participated in its design, coordination, analysis and interpretation of the data and drafted the manuscript; SH conceived of the study, participated in its design, coordination, analysis, and interpretation of the data and drafted the manuscript; JHH participated in drafting the manuscript; SSM participated in drafting the manuscript and interpretation of the results; ELG helped to draft the manuscript and secured funding. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This project was supported by Award No. 2013-JF-FX-0018 (PI: ELG), awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, as well as by the Yale School of Medicine (Brown-Coxe fellowship to SH), by Award No. R305H140050 (PI: ELG), awarded by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, and by Award No. 17-29-02384 (PI: ELG), awarded by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of Education or the Russian Foundation for Basic Research. We are grateful for the support of Catherine Foley Geib (Connecticut Court Support Services Division), Ajit Gopalakrishnan (Connecticut State Department of Education), and Peter Kochol (Connecticut Court Support Services Division) who made it possible to obtain the data used in this study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declares that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Achilles, G. M., McLaughlin, M. J., & Croninger, R. G. (2007). Sociocultural correlates of disciplinary exclusion among students with emotional, behavioral, and learning disabilities in the SEELS national dataset. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 15(1), 33–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allely, C. S., Wilson, P., Minnis, H., Thompson, L., Yaksic, E., & Gillberg, C. (2017). Violence is rare in autism: When it does occur, is it sometimes extreme? The Journal of Psychology, 151(1), 49–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ambler, P. G., Eidels, A., & Gregory, C. (2015). Anxiety and aggression in adolescents with autism spectrum disorders attending mainstream schools. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 18, 97–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th edn.). Arlington: American Psychiatric Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baglivio, M. T. (2009). The assessment of risk to recidivate among a juvenile offending population. Journal of Criminal Justice, 37, 596–607.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barrett, D. E., Katsiyannis, A., & Zhang, D. (2010). Predictors of offense severity, adjudication, incarceration, and repeat referrals for juvenile offenders: A multicohort replication study. Remedial and Special Education, 31(4), 261–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barry-Walsh, J. B., & Mullen, P. E. (2004). Forensic aspects of Asperger’s syndrome. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 15, 96–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Benjamini, Y., & Hochberg, Y. (1995). Controlling the false discovery rate: A practical and powerful approach to multiple testing. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 57(1), 289–300.Google Scholar
  9. Bjørkly, S. (2009). Risk and dynamics of violence in Asperger’s syndrome: A systematic review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14, 306–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brewer, N., Zoanetti, J., & Young, R. L. (2017). The influence of media suggestions about links between criminality and autism spectrum disorder. Autism, 21, 1–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Prevalence of autism spectrum disorder among children aged 8 years—autism and developmental disabilities monitoring network, 11 sited, United Stated, 2014 (CDC Publication No. SS.6). Retrieved from
  12. Cheely, C. A., Carpenter, L. A., Letourneau, E. J., Nicholas, J. S., Charles, J., & King, L. B. (2012). The prevalence of youth with autism spectrum disorders in the criminal justice system. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42, 1856–1862.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cohen, J. (1992). A power premier. Psychological Bulletin, 112(1), 155–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Connecticut State Department of Education (2011). Guidelines for identification and education of children and youth with autism. Retrieved from
  15. Connecticut State Department of Education (2016). Suspensions and expulsions in Connecticut. Retrieved from
  16. Cottle, C. C., Lee, R. J., & Heilbrun, K. (2001). The prediction of criminal recidivism in juveniles: A meta-analysis. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 28(3), 367–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fabelo, T., Thompson, M. D., Plotkin, M., Carmichael, D., Marchbanks, M. P., & Booth, E. A. (2011). Breaking schools’ rules: A statewide study of how school discipline relates to student’s success and juvenile justice involvement. New York: Council of State Governments Justice CenterGoogle Scholar
  18. Grigorenko (2006). Learning disabilities in juvenile offenders. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 15, 353–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hein, S., Barbot, B., Square, A., Chapman, J., Foley Geib, C., & Grigorenko, E. L. (2017). Violent offending among juveniles: A 7-year longitudinal study of recidivism, desistance, and associations with mental health. Law and Human Behavior, 41(3), 273–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004, 34 CFR § 300.8. (2004). Retrieved January 3, 2018, from
  21. Kempf-Leonard, K. (2012). Race and sex disparity in juvenile justice processing. In E. L. Grigorenko (Ed.), Handbook of juvenile forensic psychology and psychiatry (pp. 53–57). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. King, C., & Murphy, G. H. (2014). A systematic review of people with autism spectrum disorder and the criminal justice system. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44, 2717–2733.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kirk, D. S. (2006). Examining the divergence across self-report and official data sources on inferences about the adolescent life-course of crime. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 22, 107–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kumagami, T., & Matsuura, N. (2009). Prevalence of pervasive developmental disorder in juvenile court cases in Japan. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology, 20, 974–987.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lerner, M. D., Haque, O. S., Northrup, E. C., Lawer, L., & Bursztajin, H. J. (2012). Emerging perspectives on adolescents and young adults with high- functioning autism spectrum disorders, violence, and criminal law. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 40, 177–190.Google Scholar
  26. Leyfer, O. T., Folstein, S. E., Bacalman, S., Davis, N. O., Dinh, E., Morgan, J.,.. . Lainhart, J. E. (2006). Comorbid psychiatric disorders in children with autism: Interview development and rates of disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36(7), 849–861.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ling, C. Y., Mak, W. W., & Cheng, J. N. (2010). Attribution model of stigma toward children with autism in Hong Kong. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 23(3), 237–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Loefgren, E. (2011). The missing piece of the autism jigsaw puzzle: How the IDEA should better address disciplinary procedures. Law and Psychology Review, 35, 225–238.Google Scholar
  29. Maras, K., Mulcahy, S., & Crane, L. (2015). Is autism linked to criminality? Autism, 19(5), 1–2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Matson, J. L., & Shoemaker, M. E. (2011). Psychopathology and intellectual disability. Current Opinion Psychiatry, 24(5), 367–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Michna, I., & Trestman, R. (2016). Correctional management and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 44(2), 253–258.Google Scholar
  32. Miller, C. E., & Meyers, S. A. (2015). Disparities in school discipline practices for students with emotional and learning disabilities and autism. Journal of Education and Human Development, 4(1), 255–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mouridsen, S. E., Rich, B., Isager, T., & Nedergaard, N. J. (2008). Pervasive developmental disorders and criminal behaviour. A case control study. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 52(2), 196–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. O’Hearn, K., Asato, M., Ordaz, S., & Luna, B. (2008). Neurodevelopment and executive function in autism. Developmental and Psychopathology, 20, 1103–1132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. O’Nions, E., Viding, E., Floyd, C., Quinlan, E., Pidgeon, C., Gould, J., & Happe, F. (2017). Dimensions of difficulty in children reported to have an autism spectrum diagnosis and features of extreme/’pathological’ demand avoidance. Child and Adolescent Mental Health. 23, 220–227 (Advanced online publication).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Paterson, P. (2007). How well to young offenders with Asperger syndrome cope in custody? two prison case studies. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 36, 54–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pennington, M. L., Cullinan, D., & Southern, L. B. (2014). Defining autism: Variability in state education agency definitions of and evaluations for autism spectrum disorder. Autism Research and Treatment. 2014, 1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Puzzanchera, C., Adams, B., & Hockenberry, S. (2012). Juvenile court statistics 2009. Pittsburgh: National Center for Juvenile Justice.Google Scholar
  39. Randolph, J. J., Falbe, K., Manuel, A. K., & Balloun, J. L. (2014). A step-by-step guide to propensity score matching in R. Practical Assessment, Research and Evaluation, 19(18), 1–6.Google Scholar
  40. Rava, J., Shattuck, P., Rast, J., & Roux, A. (2017). The prevalence and correlates of involvement in the criminal justice system among youth on the autism spectrum. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44, 340–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schwartz-Watts, D. M. (2005). Asperger’s disorder and murder. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 33, 390–393.Google Scholar
  42. Simonoff, E., Pickles, A., Charman, T., Chandler, S., Loucas, T., & Baird, G. (2008). Psychiatric disorders in children with autism spectrum disorders: Prevalence, comorbidity, and associated factors in a population-derived sample. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 47(8), 921–929.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (2014). Data Snapshot: School Discipline. Retrieved from
  44. Wilson, M. C., & Scior, K. (2014). Attitudes towards individuals with disabilities as measured by the implicit association test: A literature review. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 35, 294–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Woodbury-Smith, M. R., Clare, I. C. H., Holland, A. J., & Kearns, A. (2006). High functioning autistic spectrum disorder, offending, and other law-breaking: Findings from a community sample. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology, 17(1), 108–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Woodbury-Smith, M. R., Clare, I. C. H., Holland, A. J., Kearns, A., Staufenberg, E., & Watson, P. (2005). A case–control study of offenders with high functioning autism spectrum disorders. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 16, 747–763.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Zhang, D., Barrett, D. B., Katsiyannis, A., & Yoon, M. (2011). Juvenile offenders with and without disabilities: Risks and patterns of recidivism. Learning and Individual Differences, 21(1), 12–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychological, Health, and Learning SciencesUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA
  3. 3.Texas Institute for Measurement, Evaluation, and StatisticsUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA
  4. 4.Laboratory of Translational Sciences of Human DevelopmentSaint Petersburg State UniversitySaint PetersburgRussia

Personalised recommendations