Examining the Interplay of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms and Trait Anger As Contributing Factors To Institutional Misconduct Among Justice-Involved Adolescents

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Background: Although justice-involved adolescents have a higher prevalence of trait anger and of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than adolescents in the general population, these factors have not been examined in relation to institutional misconduct.

Aims: We sought to examine associations between ADHD symptoms and misconduct, including aggression, disruptive behaviours and other rule-violating behaviours among adolescents in a maximum-security residential facility run by the Department of Juvenile Justice and to test the moderating effect of trait anger on such relationships.

Methods" Archival data collected from April 2010 to May 2011 comprising a resident cohort (N = 119) of justice-involved adolescents (mean age = 16.74) were analysed; 30% were White and 70% Black. Self-report measures of ADHD symptoms and trait anger were collected 2 weeks after their admission to the facility. Behavioural write-ups of rule violations issued by facility staff during the month following the collection of these measures were coded according to the different forms of institutional misconduct.

Results: Analyses revealed that trait anger significantly predicted disruptive behaviours occurring within a 1-month time frame following the administration of the anger measure; it also predicted all other rule violating behaviours except aggression. ADHD symptoms, by contrast, were only marginally predictive. Trait anger did not moderate this small relationship between ADHD symptoms and institutional misconduct.

Conclusions: These findings that adolescents with a chronic tendency to feel angry are more likely to violate a variety of institutional rules during the first few weeks of admission to a juvenile justice maximum-security residential facility suggest that early intervention efforts are needed to minimise harm within the institution and to prevent these adolescents from continuing on this trajectory, which may affect the conditions of their release.

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Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health

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