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Adolescent sexual offenders and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder: An unidentified and undertreated co-morbidity?

17 April 1998


There are indications from research and from clinical practice that a subgroup of
adolescent sex offenders (ASO's) suffer from Attention Deficit - Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Four characteristics common to both ASO's and ADHD are identified in the literature, and a theoretical model is proposed to account for the interaction between ASO behavior and ADHD. Results of a pilot study involving incarcerated male adolescents (49 ASO's and 16 non-sex offender youths) suggest that 25% to 39% of the ASO group evidence a significant degree of ADHD symptoms, as detennined by the Self Report Rating Scale (SRRS). ASO participants with elevated SRRS scores typically reported symptoms of Hyperactivity/ Impulsivity, or of both Hyperactivity/ Impulsivity and Cognitive Inefficiency. Few ASO participants reported a preponderance of Cognitive Inefficiency symptoms alone. However a low, positive correlation was noted
between the ASO Worst Clime variable and the SRRS Cognitive Inefficiency score. This may indicate that ASO's who are very inattentive and very hyperactive/ impulsive are at higher risk for serious criminal behavior. It is speculated that inattention, in this context, may reflect a tendency to attend to internal stimuli, such as deviant sexual fantasies. Results indicate there were no significant differences in SRRS scores between the ASO group and the non-sex offender group. There were no significant correlations between ASO personality variables as measured by the Jesness Inventory and SRRS scores. Implications for assessment, treatment, and research are discussed.


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