Should childhood conduct disorder be necessary to diagnose antisocial personality disorder in adults?

BACKGROUND: Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is the only DSM personality disorder that requires a diagnosis of conduct disorder (CD) during childhood. Previous research comparing adults diagnosed with ASPD with adults who meet all ASPD criteria except for a history of CD (referred to in this study as adult antisocial syndrome [AAS]) have reported mixed results. This study sought to clarify the differences among adults with ASPD, adults with AAS, and a large psychiatric outpatient control group.

METHODS: A series of semi-structured interviews were conducted with 2,691 psychiatric outpatients. We compared groups on demographic variables, psychiatric comorbidity, symptom presentation, parental history, and psychosocial morbidity.

RESULTS: Significant differences were found among ASPD, AAS, and controls in regard to demographic variables, comorbidity, symptom presentation, and parental history. The ASPD and AAS groups were similarly impaired with respect to global functioning, occupational and social functioning, and suicidality.

CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest that by including a history of CD in ASPD criteria, our diagnostic system excludes an important group of later-onset patients who also require attention and resources. Implications, limitations, and future directions are discussed.

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