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Am J Psychiatry. 2001 Jul;158(7):1099-104.

Male criminals with organic brain syndrome: two distinct types based on age at first arrest.

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Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.



This study examined whether criminals with organic brain syndrome could be divided into two distinct types. The authors proposed that early starters (onset of criminal activity by age 18) would display a persistent, long-lasting pattern of deviance that was largely independent of their brain disorder, whereas late starters (onset at age 19 or after) would exhibit deviant behaviors that began late in life and were more directly related to their brain disorder.


Subjects were 1,130 male criminal offenders drawn from a birth cohort of all individuals born between January 1, 1944, and December 31, 1947, in Denmark. The main study group included all men with both a history of criminal arrest and a hospitalization for organic brain syndrome (N=565). In addition, for a subset of analyses, the authors examined a randomly selected, same-size comparison group of men with a history of criminal arrest who were not hospitalized for organic brain syndrome. Data were available on all arrests and all psychiatric hospitalizations for individuals in this cohort through the age of 44.


Among those with organic brain syndrome, early starters were significantly more likely than late starters to 1) be arrested before the onset of organic brain syndrome, 2) show a higher rate of offending before but not after the onset of organic brain syndrome, 3) be both recidivists and violent recidivists, and 4) have a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder.


Male criminals with organic brain syndrome can be meaningfully divided into two distinct types on the basis of age at first arrest. Early starters show a more global, persistent, and stable pattern of offending than late starters. These results have implications for treatment and risk assessment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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