U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Parental Mental Disorder and Offspring Criminal Behavior: An Adoption Study

NCJ Number
Psychiatry Volume: 50 Issue: 4 Dated: (November 1987) Pages: 346-360
Date Published
16 pages
Biological predisposition toward antisocial behavior may characterize the most serious of recidivistic and violent criminal offenders.
This study looks at how mental disorder in the biological background of 6,700 male adoptees contributed to recidivistic and violent criminal offending. The rate of multiple recidivistic nonviolent criminal behavior was found to be significantly higher in adopted-away sons when mental disorder and criminal involvement were characteristic of the adoptees' biological families. A similar, but nonsignificant, elevation was found for rates of violence. Drug abuse, alcohol abuse, or personality disorder parental diagnostic types were most strongly associated with some later criminal involvement. Parental psychoses were not related to offspring recidivism or violence in this cohort. The study considered the possible confounding effects of missing data, institutionalization prior to adoption, information given to adoptive parents by the adoption agencies about the child's biological background, historical period, perinatal factors, and selective placement. Perinatal factors could not be discounted as contributors to the findings. Tabular data and 24 references. (Author abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 1987