Introduction Prisoner mental health is an increasingly important health concern. An often neglected condition among youth prisoners is ADHD, which not only has implications for general health and well-being, but is also associated with an increased risk of anti-social and unlawful behaviour (including violent offences). The paper reports a study that investigates the relationship between ADHD symptoms and violent conduct in male youth prisoners in Scottish prisons.
Method The study included 57 male youth offenders incarcerated in three Scottish prisons and 58 male (student) non-offenders, aged 18–21 years. Self-reported ADHD symptoms were measured using the Conners' Adult ADHD Rating Scale and information on the nature and number of prison breaches of discipline was provided by the Scottish Prison Service.
Results The youth offender group showed significantly greater total ADHD symptom scores than the non-offenders. More specifically, scores on the DSM-IV hyperactivity-impulsive subscale were significantly greater in offenders than non-offenders. Moreover, a variety of subscales showed a greater correlation with violent compared to non-violent breaches of prison discipline.
Conclusion The study found that Scottish male youths currently incarcerated in Scottish prisons show greater levels of ADHD symptoms than a group of male (student) non-offenders. Moreover, there was some evidence suggesting that self-reported hyperactivity and impulsivity differentiated violent and non-violent breaches of prison discipline. In conclusion, given the association of ADHD with violent conduct, it is imperative that ADHD symptoms are acknowledged as risk factors for anti-social and violent behaviour and are subsequently addressed in rehabilitation efforts.
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