Young men with conduct disorders are more likely to carry guns

01/28/04

CHICAGO – The likelihood of carrying a concealed gun appears to be linked with conduct disorder (CD) in young men, according to an article in the February issue of The Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Conduct disorder is a psychiatric diagnosis defined as "a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others and major age-appropriate societal norms or rules are violated," according to the article. Using weapons is also a symptom of CD, but little is known about how many boys with CD illegally carry concealed guns before the age of 18 and to what extent their gun carrying is associated with violence or crime.

Rolf Loeber, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues investigated the relationship between carrying a concealed gun and CD in young men, and how gun carrying is associated with crime in adulthood.

The researchers studied 177 boys, many with behavioral disorders including CD, who were first interviewed in 1987 when they were between the ages of 7 and 12 years. The boys were interviewed annually until the age of 19. Participants were 29.9 percent African American and 70.1 percent white.

The researchers found one in five participants between then ages of 12 and 17 years carried a concealed gun, and the prevalence of gun carrying increased with age. More than half (61.1 percent) reported carrying a gun for one year only. The researchers also found that adult crime was best predicted by gun carrying, CD and (lack of) parental monitoring. Gun carrying also predicted drug charges, but not violence or property offenses.

"Of all psychiatric diagnoses, only CD was positively associated with gun carrying. This specific link probably rests on the association between delinquent-type symptoms of CD, reflecting a delinquent lifestyle, and gun carrying," write the authors. "Conduct disorder, even when controlling for self-reported violent behavior, maternal psychopathy [being diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder], victimization, and [lack of] parental monitoring, increased the risk of gun carrying by a factor of five."

The authors conclude: "Even though the carrying of handguns by juveniles is prohibited, young men with symptoms of CD are more likely to carry guns than young men without CD."

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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