We conducted an exploratory multivariate analysis of juvenile behavior symptoms in an adoption data set. One goal was to see if a few DSM-interpretable symptom dimensions economically captured information within the data. A second goal was to study the relationships between any such dimensions, biological and environmental background, and eventual adult antisocial behavior.
The data originated from a retrospective adoption study. Probands with a biological background for parental antisocial personality or alcoholism were heavily oversampled. Symptoms were ascertained by proband and adoptive parent interview. We performed, by gender, orthogonal rotated principal component analyses of juvenile behavior disturbance symptoms (females, n=87; males, n=88). We used structural equation modeling to examine the relationships hypothesized above.
For both genders, an oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) component and at least 1 conduct component emerged. Regardless of the conduct component scores, the ODD components were significant predictors of adult antisocial behavior. For males, the ODD component was predicted by an antisocial biological background, but not by scores on the Adverse Adoptive Environment Scale. The conduct components were predicted by adoptive environment alone. For females, biological background or biological-environmental interactions predicted each of the components.
There has been little previous distinction between conduct disorder and ODD in studies of genetic and environmental influences on juvenile behavior. The study suggests that adolescent ODD symptoms may be a distinct antecedent of adult antisocial personality. In males, adolescent ODD symptoms may represent early expression of genetic sociopathic personality traits.