Many antisocial youth have difficult temperaments from birth.
- Babies with difficult temperament
are poor sleepers, difficult to feed and hard to toilet train.1
These babies require
extra patience and attention. Research has shown that children with
difficult temperaments who grow up in families where there have been
serious difficulties, develop emotional and behavioral problems.2
Many antisocial youth suffer from a variety of disabilities.
- Learning disabilities, including
reading disability, are common occurrences.3 Lack of recognition of disabilities
can cause serious problems to a child's progress and self image.
Many antisocial youth have serious psychiatric disorders
- The most common is attention-deficit
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which makes it hard for these youth to
do well academically.4
Impulsiveness is one of the symptoms of ADHD which often contributes
to children getting into fights and trouble with the law. ADHD runs
in families and has been linked to a genetic abnormality.5
Besides the above, many
antisocial youth have neurological disturbances such as psychomotor
epilepsy, and symptoms of psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia
and manic depressive psychosis.6
Many antisocial youth come from families that have experienced a great
deal of difficulty and stress.
- Children growing up in these
families may experience inconsistent discipline, neglect, and physical
There may be a history of mental illness in one or both parents. Very
often the difficulties experienced by the families are further aggravated
None of the above risk
factors by themselves cause young persons to be antisocial. What makes
the youth more than likely to be antisocial is the presence of more
than 2 or 3 factors. In fact, most antisocial youth have 3 or 4 risk
Many antisocial youth are
unable to meet society's expectations. This may result from their
disabilities, disorders and family backgrounds. They find it difficult
to control their behaviour; they are unable to perform well
in school; and they have difficulties forming close and meaningful
It is important
to recognize that without help these youth are going to cause a great
deal of harm to society through their antisocial and violent behaviour.
Besides causing suffering
to their families and society, they cost us millions of dollars through
probation, jail, welfare and unemployment. 10
fact is that antisocial youth
do not choose to be bad;
with help they are capable
of being good. It is in our interest to help them so that, instead of
causing pain and expense to society, they can positively contribute.
can we help?
We Can Help
- By helping families so that
they can meet the physical, emotional and intellectual needs of their
- By recognizing and treating
aggressive behaviour as soon as it appears. Many violent youth were
- By ensuring that antisocial
youth receive proper assessments and effective treatments.
- By abandoning the pursuit
of harsh punishments. Research has shown that long sentences and harsh
punishments do not prevent the recurrence of crime.11
A., Chess, S., and Birch, H.G. (1969). Temperament and Behaviour
Disorders in Children. New York: New York University Press.
M., Caron, C., Cote, R., Merette, C., Bernier, H., Laplante, B., Boutin,
P., and Thivierge, J. (1990). Psychiatric status of adolescents
who had extreme temperaments at age 7. American Journal of Psychiatry,
D.O., Shanok, S.S., Balla, D.A. and Bard, B. (1980). Psychiatric
correlates of severe reading disabilities in an incarcerated delinquent
population. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry, 19, 611-622.
J.D., Halperin, J.M., Newcom, J.H., Sharma, V., Wolf, L. and Morganstein,
A. (1992). ADDH, Conduct Disorder and cognitive functioning. Developmental
and Behavioral Pediatrics, 130), 274277.
P., Zametin, A.J., Martinez, P., Vitiello, B., Matochik, J.A., Mixson,
A.J. and Weintraub, B. (1993). Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder
in people with generalized resistance to thyroid hormone. The New
England Journal of Medicine, 328(14), 997-1001.
D.O. (1993). Conduct disorder. In: R. Michels, A.M. Cooper, S.B.
Guze, et al. (Eds.), Psychiatry (Vol. 2, Chap. 37, pp. 1-10).
Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co.
T.J. (1977). The aggressive characteristics of abused and neglected
children. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 33(4), 1140-1145.
N., Thomas, B.H., Offord, D.R., and Boyle, M.H. (1989). Risk, protective
factors, and the prevalence of behavioral and emotional disorders in
children and adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child
and Adolescent Psychiatry, 28(2), 262-268.
M. (1979). Invulnerability, or why some children are not damaged
by stress. In: S.J. Shamsie (Ed.), New Directions in Children's Mental
Health (pp. 53-76). New York: S.P. Medical and Scientific Books.
J. (Ed.). (1990). Youth with conduct disorder: what is to be done?
Toronto: Ministry of Community and Social Services.
D.A., Leschied, A.W. and Hoge, R.D. (1992). Review of the profile,
classification and treatment literature with young offenders: a socialpsychological
approach. Toronto: Ministry of Community and Social Services.
Prepared by Dr. Jalal
Sharnsie, Director, IAY
in consultation with the IAY Multi-Agency Staff Development Committee