Deconstructing childhood conduct and adult antisocial criteria for the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder

BACKGROUND: Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is a serious psychiatric disorder that can be incapacitating and costly to individuals and society. The ASPD diagnosis has 2 main components, childhood conduct problems and adult antisocial behaviors, with specific age requirements. The nosological effects of these criteria on population subgroups defined by these aspects of the criteria have not been fully explored.

METHODS: Data for ASPD were analyzed for 3,498 individuals in the St Louis, Missouri, site of the Epidemiologic Catchment Area study of general population psychiatric disorders collected in the early 1980s using structured diagnostic interviews for DSM-III criteria. Effects of the criteria on population subgroups defined by various combinations of the criteria were examined.

RESULTS: Earlier-onset conduct disorder was more severe than later-onset childhood conduct disorder, with more total childhood and adult symptoms and negative psychosocial adult outcomes (substance use disorders, criminality, and homelessness). Three subgroups with adult antisocial behaviors (differentiated by no conduct disorder, later-onset conduct disorder, and earlier-onset conduct disorder meeting ASPD criteria) were similar in numbers of adult antisocial symptoms, but the ASPD subgroup had more negative psychosocial adult outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings provide evidence for and against reconsideration of the 15-year age-of-onset requirement for conduct symptoms in ASPD criteria.

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