Understanding Criminal Behaviour in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: Neurocognitive Deficits and Social Factors
Individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) are more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system than individuals without FASD. Research shows that individuals with FASD are unable to learn from standard methods of punishment, such as incarceration. The objective of this research was to determine how young offenders with an FASD diagnosis differ from young offenders without a diagnosis in order to inform sentencing and treatment options for FASD offenders. Using a pre-existing database of court-referred young offenders, the data of 197 youths were compared. Eighty-six young offenders in this sample were diagnosed with FASD. Information was available on a number of neurocognitive variables, such as cognition, memory, attention, achievement, and language, as well as social data, such as substance use, assistance in school, home stability, and criminal charges. Profile analysis was run on the neurocognitive data for young offenders with and without FASD. The social data were analyzed using a combination of correlation and one-way ANOVAs. Young offenders with FASD differed from young offenders without FASD on severity of impairment on the neurocognitive measures, with individuals with FASD scoring lower that the comparison group. There was no difference in the profile of neurocognitive deficiency between the groups, suggesting that young offenders with FASD have the same profile of impairments as other young offenders but to a more severe degree. There were not found to be any strong or moderate associations between the types of charges accrued and any neurocognitive measure, indicating that deficits likely do not directly lead to offending. Home stability between birth and age seven was particularly important as a protective factor for future crime, and having ever been in foster care was strongly related to number of charges. Current substance use of all kinds was associated with a higher number of charges. Youth with FASD are likely more at risk for criminal behaviour due to lower overall neurocognitive functioning, poor environmental stability, and an interaction of the two. Programs for people with FASD will be required throughout the life span and current correctional programs have yet to be developed for offenders with FASD.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
SupervisorNanson, Jo; Wormith, Stephen
CommitteeO'Connell, Megan; Olver, Mark; Luther, Glen; Rasmussen, Carmen
Copyright DateMarch 2014