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Psychopathology and Age at Onset of Conduct Problems in Juvenile Delinquents

J Clin Psychiatry 2003;64:913-920

Background: This study aimed to assess psychopathology among incarcerated Russian juvenile delinquents in relation to the onset of conduct problems.

Method: 358 male juvenile delinquents were interviewed from January to September 1999, using the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School-Age Children-Present and Lifetime Version. Early behavior problems, current antisocial behavior, and psychopathology were also assessed through self-reports. The presence of conduct disorder (CD) and other diagnoses was determined according to DSM-IV criteria.

Results: 73.2% of the incarcerated youths met criteria for CD. 23.5% of the total sample reported at least 1 criterion for CD being present before the age of 10 years. All participants from this early-onset group fulfilled the criteria for CD. This group also had significantly higher rates of psychopathology, and particularly of externalizing behaviors, as compared with youths whose conduct problems began at or after the age of 10 years.

Conclusion: Poor psychosocial adaptation and future prognosis in juvenile delinquents with early-onset conduct problems may be related to their greater degree of psychiatric disturbance compared with later-onset delinquent youths. Need for psychiatric treatment should be carefully considered in prevention and rehabilitation efforts for troubled youths.