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Animal Cruelty and Psychiatric Disorders

NCJ Number
Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Volume: 30 Issue: 2 Dated: 2002 Pages: 257-265
Roman Gleyzer M.D.; Alan R. Felthous M.D.; Charles E. Holzer, III Ph.D.
Date Published
9 pages
This study tested the hypothesis that a history of substantial animal cruelty was associated with a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder.
In addition to examining the association between cruelty to animals and antisocial personality disorder (APD), the study looked for associations with other disorders commonly diagnosed in a population of criminal defendants. Study participants included 48 men with a history of animal cruelty during childhood and 48 men with no such history. Cruelty to animals was significantly associated with APD, antisocial personality traits, and polysubstance abuse. Mental retardation, psychotic disorders, and alcohol abuse showed no such association. The study recommends that clinicians obtain a detailed and meaningful account of Conduct Disorder and APD before attaching diagnostic significance in individual cases. Frequency, severity, and nature of cruelty; types of animals mistreated; and motivation should be documented. Long-term prospective studies of behaviorally disordered and aggressive children and youths should include animal cruelty among the behavior observed and monitored over time, not just as a behavioral sign of APD, but as a probe for specific psychopathologic dimensions of psychopathy. Tables, references


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