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Keywords:

  • aggression;
  • bipolar disorder;
  • conduct disorder;
  • delinquency;
  • neuropsychological testing

Objective:  We report pilot data on neuropsychological deficits in aggressive juvenile offenders with and without bipolar disorder compared with each other and healthy controls.

Method:  We assessed 52 adolescents and their parent or guardians: 36 incarcerated juvenile offenders and 16 community controls using the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School Age Children, Present and Life-Time Version and a neuropsychological testing battery. All incarcerated subjects (n = 34) met criteria for Conduct Disorder (CD); 26 are classified as Non-BD-CD, and eight with CD and Bipolar disorder (CD-BD). These subjects were compared to community controls (n = 16) matched for age, gender, SES and ethnicity.

Results:  Relative to controls, the Non-BD-CD subjects’ impairments (p < 0.05) were in cognitive ability, set shifting/inhibition, planning and verbal memory–language functioning. The CD-BD group displayed impairments (p < 0.05) relative to controls in cognitive ability, set shifting, verbal memory–language functioning, and visuospatial tasks. The Non-BD-CD and CD-BD groups however did not display significant differences on most neuropsychological measures compared with each other. When we controlled for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, the Non-CD-BP subjects continued to show deficits on Verbal measures where the CD-BD subjects maintained deficits in measures of cognitive ability, verbal measures and visual spatial tests.

Conclusions:  Juvenile offender with CD displayed a wide range of deficits on neuropsychological testing compared with controls. Although juvenile offenders with and without BD differed on their clinical presentation, differences on neuropsychological measures are not specific and may be related to comorbid diagnoses.