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Psychiatric disorder in the children of antisocial parents


Background. Although parents with psychiatric disorders are likely to have children with psychiatric problems, the nature of disorder risk to offspring of antisocial parents has received limited attention.

Method. We examined the prevalence of common externalizing and internalizing disorders in the pre-adolescent and late adolescent offspring of antisocial parents. Lifetime diagnoses for a sample of 11-year-old twins (958 males, 1042 females) and a sample of 17-year-old twins (1332 males, 1434 females), as well as their parents, were obtained through in-person interviews. Odds ratios were calculated for the effect of the parent's diagnosis on the child's diagnosis, controlling for the effect of the co-parent's diagnosis.

Results. We found that parental antisociality places the child at increased risk for developing a range of externalizing and internalizing disorders. This increase is evident by pre-adolescence and extends to a wide range of disorders by late adolescence. Each parent has an effect net any effects of the co-parent.

Conclusions. Antisocial parents have children who have an increased likelihood of developing a broad range of psychiatric disorders.

Corresponding author
Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, N218 Elliott Hall, 75 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA. (Email:
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Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
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