Early Prevention of Antisocial Personality: Long-Term Follow-Up of Two Randomized Controlled Trials Comparing Indicated and Selective Approaches

Stephen Scott, Jackie Briskman, Thomas G O'Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE Antisocial personality is a common adult problem that imposes a major public health burden, but for which there is no effective treatment. Affected individuals exhibit persistent antisocial behavior and pervasive antisocial character traits, such as irritability, manipulativeness, and lack of remorse. Prevention of antisocial personality in childhood has been advocated, but evidence for effective interventions is lacking.

METHOD The authors conducted two follow-up studies of randomized trials of group parent training. One involved 120 clinic-referred 3- to 7-year-olds with severe antisocial behavior for whom treatment was indicated, 93 of whom were reassessed between ages 10 and 17. The other involved 109 high-risk 4- to 6-year-olds with elevated antisocial behavior who were selectively screened from the community, 90 of whom were reassessed between ages 9 and 13. The primary psychiatric outcome measures were the two elements of antisocial personality, namely, antisocial behavior (assessed by a diagnostic interview) and antisocial character traits (assessed by a questionnaire). Also assessed were reading achievement (an important domain of youth functioning at work) and parent-adolescent relationship quality.

RESULTS In the indicated sample, both elements of antisocial personality were improved in the early intervention group at long-term follow-up compared with the control group (antisocial behavior: odds ratio of oppositional defiant disorder=0.20, 95% CI=0.06, 0.69; antisocial character traits: B=-4.41, 95% CI=-1.12, -8.64). Additionally, reading ability improved (B=9.18, 95% CI=0.58, 18.0). Parental expressed emotion was warmer (B=0.86, 95% CI=0.20, 1.41) and supervision was closer (B=-0.43, 95% CI=-0.11, -0.75), but direct observation of parenting showed no differences. Teacher-rated and self-rated antisocial behavior were unchanged. In contrast, in the selective high-risk sample, early intervention was not associated with improved long-term outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS Early intervention with severely antisocial children for whom treatment is indicated may prevent the development of antisocial personality in adolescence and may improve academic performance. In contrast, early intervention with selective high-risk samples may be ineffective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-657
Number of pages9
JournalThe American Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014


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