So concluded Johanna Inhyang Kim and colleagues  (open-access) following their investigation into the prevalence of DSM-IV psychiatric criteria in a sample of 173 male juvenile detainees aged between 15-19 years old held at a “male juvenile detention center in Seoul, South Korea, during the period of December 2015 to January 2016.”
Most of the detainees were held in relation to crimes against property (49%) but violent crimes (39%), traffic offences (24%) and sexual offences (19%) also featured in offending patterns.
The presence of a psychiatric diagnosis was made using the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI) screening for various groups of disorders: disruptive behavioural disorders (DBDs), substance use disorder (SUD) and “any anxiety disorder.”
Researchers also looked for the presence of psychotic disorder and major depression too, alongside collecting various demographic data and information about recidivism (repeat offending).
Results: “In total, 157 (90.8%) participants had at least one psychiatric diagnosis” is the standout figure from the paper compared with other independent data from this part of the world “of 15–38% among the general adolescent population.”
Alcohol use disorder was the most frequently mentioned label mentioned in the study, but ‘comorbidity seems to be the rule’ as we are told that: “Alcohol use disorder with DBDs was the most common combination, accounting for 46.2% of the detainees, followed by DBDs with anxiety disorders (22.5%).”
When it came to the important issue of repeat offending, researchers also report some interesting patterns. Dropping out of school, present in about a quarter of the total cohort, was reported to be a factor in relation to recidivism (present in about 90% of detainees).
The presence of two psychiatric disorders also showed a notable connection to repeat offending particularly where an alcohol use disorder was one of them.
The message seems to be that keeping kids/young adults in school and away from alcohol might be an important combination in relation to affecting repeat offending rates.
There is quite a lot of other data included in the Kim study and I would encourage interested parties to take a more detailed look. One thing that struck me about the Kim data was the apparent lack of results when it came to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in relation to offending and repeat offending outcomes.
Minus any sweeping generalisations, I’ve talked before on this blog about how a diagnosis of ADHD might elevate the risk of contact with law enforcement agencies (see here) for whatever reason(s) and how a combination of ADHD and conduct disorder in particular, might be tied into a range of long-term adverse outcomes including ‘risk of criminality’.
Kim and colleagues paint a slightly different clinical picture whereby a different combination of psychiatric factors might be specifically related to this group of people in this part of the world.More investigations are implied including reference to what potential nutritional changes might do to [some] behaviour in this population.
Kim JI, Kim B, Kim BN, Hong SB, Lee DW, Chung JY, Choi JY, Choi BS, Oh YR, & Youn M. (2017) Prevalence of psychiatric disorders, comorbidity patterns, and repeat offending among male juvenile detainees in South Korea: a cross-sectional study. Child and adolescent psychiatry and mental health, 6. PMID: 28115987
Author: Paul Whiteley, Questioning Answers