Is There A Link Between Autism And Violent Crime?

After a number of violent crimes in the news were alleged to have been committed by individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including the school shooting in Parkland and others, many wonder if there is a link between autism and violent crime. There is a perception in the public that people with ASD are more prone to committing violent crimes. However, studies show that people with ASD alone are no more violent than the general population and that there may be other factors contributing to the association of ASD with violence.

Public Perception

There is a belief that because people with ASD may lack social skills or can be socially withdrawn that they are hostile. People with ASD appear to have limited or no empathy for other people, and there is a public perception that this can lead to violent propensities. While it may be true that people with ASD can have behavioral difficulties, this does not necessarily mean they are prone to violent behavior.

Swedish Study

According to a study conducted in Sweden and published in the Journal of the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, an ASD diagnosis alone does not increase the risk of violence. The study analyzed over 295,000 individuals, almost 6,000 of which had an autism diagnosis. Researchers tracked these individuals for violent crime convictions between the ages of 15 and 27 using criminal records. During the study, individuals with autism initially appeared to have a greater risk of violence, but the association was significantly reduced once the presence of other disorders was taken into account.

The study concluded that the presence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder, other psychiatric disorders, and substance abuse were better predictors of violent behavior. People with autism may have other disorders present which leads to the perception that autism is connected to violence. Once these other disorders were taken into account, the study showed that the rate of violence in people with only ASD was lower than the rate of violence in people without ASD. Therefore, the evidence indicated that having ASD may actually reduce the risk of violence.

If you or a loved one has an intellectual or developmental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental illnesses. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.

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