Do antisocial females exhibit poor outcomes in adulthood? An Australian cohort study

William Bor, Tara Renae McGee, Reza Hayatbakhsh, Angela Dean, Jake M Najman
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 2010, 44 (7): 648-57

OBJECTIVE: Antisocial behaviour in young people is common and associated with adverse effects in adulthood. The question whether these effects are observed in both genders remains controversial. A typology of antisocial behaviour that captures childhood limited (CL), adolescent onset (AO) and life course persistent behaviour (LCP) through both developmental stages is utilized to examine young adult outcomes in both sexes.

METHODS: The Mater-University of Queensland Study of Pregnancy (MUSP) data set is a longitudinal study following up a cohort of 7223 infants and mothers from antenatal care to the child's 21st year. Data on child antisocial behaviour was collected at ages 5 and 14 years. At the 21-year follow up, self-reported outcomes were collected on antisocial behaviour, use of alcohol, tobacco and cannabis, physical and mental health functioning. The relationship between the three antisocial sub-types and negative young adult outcomes was examined for both males and females using a series of logistic regressions.

RESULTS: Complete data across 21 years was available for 3173 participants. Males experienced higher levels of antisocial behaviour. In both males and females, AO and LCP groups exhibited elevated risk of negative outcomes including continuing antisocial behaviour, cannabis use, general health problems and depression/anxiety symptoms. The CL group exhibited poorer outcomes in physical and mental health but not in other domains.

CONCLUSION: Both males and females exhibiting AO and LCP antisocial behaviour are at increased risk of serious adverse outcomes in young adulthood. The significant loss to follow up of high-risk groups suggests the important relationship between early antisocial behaviour and problems in adulthood have been underestimated. Further research is required to understand antisocial behaviour in adolescence, identify factors that reinforce its continuity into adulthood, and identify interventions which are able to modify adult outcomes.

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