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Horm Behav. 2006 Nov;50(4):647-54. Epub 2006 Jul 24.

Neuroendocrine and neurotransmitter correlates in children with antisocial behavior.

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School of Psychology, Cardiff University, PO Box 901, Cardiff CF10 3AT, UK.


When antisocial behavior becomes a persistent pattern that affects diverse domains of children's functioning, psychiatrists refer to oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) or conduct disorder (CD). The term disruptive behavior disorder (DBD) covers both ODD and CD. Research shows that in the absence of effective interventions, the prognosis for DBD children is relatively unfavorable: their disorder can extend into adolescence, manifest itself in delinquency, and convert into other psychiatric symptoms, such as addiction or personality disorders. Although environmental factors have traditionally attracted most attention in explaining the origin and persistence of DBDs, it is important not to overlook the vulnerability of the child in the development of antisocial behavior. Relatively few studies have been conducted on the neurobiological factors involved in the development of DBDs in children. In this paper, we explain how problems in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and serotonergic system functioning could be important factors in the behavioral problems of DBD children. Low fear of punishment and physiological underactivity may predispose antisocial individuals to seek out stimulation or take risks and may explain poor (social) conditioning and socialization. Findings consistent with this hypothesis are presented. Finally, we explain how stress in general, and adverse early life experiences in particular, could have an impact on the development of the HPA and serotonergic systems. An investigation of the neurobiological factors involved in antisocial behavior disorder might ultimately guide the development of new forms of intervention.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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