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Nord J Psychiatry. 2011 Dec;65(6):365-72. doi: 10.3109/08039488.2011.558115. Epub 2011 Feb 18.

Juvenile delinquency and psychiatric contact among adoptees compared to non-adoptees in Denmark: a nationwide register-based comparative study.

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  • 1Unit of Women and Gender Research in Medicine, Section of General Practice, Institute of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.



Research stresses that adoptees are at high risk of psychiatric contact, but are they also more likely to be at risk of juvenile delinquency? The aim is to clarify whether the variable "adoptee" is an independent risk factor for criminal conviction and to highlight relationships between convictions and their relapses and psychiatric contacts.


A nationwide comparative register-based study, 1994-2004. The cohort is composed of 282,986 individuals aged 15-27, Danish and foreign born (immigrants); 1.3% are adoptees, included adopted stepchildren.


The variable "adoptee" is not a risk factor for transnational adoptees and Danish ≤12 months at adoption, but Danish adoptees >12 months at adoption and adopted stepchildren have a 3-4 times higher risk than non-adoptees. However, "country of origin" has a negative impact on foreign-born adoptees and foreign-born non-adoptees. "Age at adoption", "psychiatric contact" and "not living with parents" (at time of inclusion) are risks of conviction and conviction relapse. Boys are at higher risk than girls, but girls' psychiatric contact is highest. Stepchildren are an overlooked risk group.


"Adoptee", as such, is not a risk factor for convictions, but it seems that it is the way adoption-related matters are handled. Gender-specific care for children and adolescents with new thinking in relation to child relinquishment, institutionalization and mental health care is important to ensure both boys and girls a youth free of crime.

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