December 1974

An Adoption Study of Antisocial Personality

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, the University of Iowa, College of Medicine, Iowa City.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1974;31(6):785-791. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1974.01760180027003

To test the hypothesis that heredity contributes to the development of antisocial personality a group of offspring born to female offenders and given up for adoption in infancy was examined. Forty-six probands and an equal number of control adoptees over 18 years old were followed up and interviewed.

A significantly higher rate of antisocial personality was found among the probands than among the controls. The nonantisocial probands proved not to be more deviant than the controls. The antisocial probands experienced certain unfavorable conditions in infancy that may be related to the development of antisocial personality, the most notable being the length of time spent in temporary care prior to final placement.

Although the control group was equally exposed to the same conditions, they did not develop a high rate of the disorder. The findings point to the importance of interactions between genetic and environmental factors in the development of antisocial personality.