Childhood-versus adolescent-onset antisocial youth with conduct disorder: Psychiatric illness, neuropsychological and psychosocial function

Vicki A. Johnson, Andrew H. Kemp, Robert Heard, Christopher J. Lennings, Ian B. Hickie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: The present study investigates whether youths with childhood-onset antisocial behavior have higher rates of psychiatric illness, neuropsychological and psychosocial dysfunction than youths who engage in antisocial behavior for the first time in adolescence. Prior studies have generally focused on single domains of function in heterogeneous samples. The present study also examined the extent to which adolescent-onset antisocial behavior can be considered normative, an assumption of Moffitt's dual taxonomy model. Method: Forty-three subjects (34 males, 9 females, mean age = 15.31, age range 12-21) with a diagnosis of conduct disorder (CD) were recruited through Headspace Services and the Juvenile Justice Community Centre. We compared childhood-onset antisocial youths (n = 23) with adolescent-onset antisocial youths (n = 20) with a conduct disorder, across a battery of psychiatric, neuropsychological and psychosocial measures. Neuropsychological function of both groups was also compared with normative scores from control samples. Results: The childhood-onset group displayed deficits in verbal learning and memory, higher rates of psychosis, childhood maltreatment and more serious violent behavior, all effects associated with a large effect size. Both groups had impaired executive function, falling within the extremely low range (severely impaired). Conclusions: Childhood-onset CD displayed greater cognitive impairment, more psychiatric symptoms and committed more serious violent offences. The finding of severe executive impairment in both childhood- and adolescent-onset groupings challenges the assumption that adolescentonset antisocial behavior is a normative process.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0121627
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2015. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


Dive into the research topics of 'Childhood-versus adolescent-onset antisocial youth with conduct disorder: Psychiatric illness, neuropsychological and psychosocial function'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this