'Cascading effect' of childhood experiences may explain serious teen violence

Nov 14, 2008

Adverse experiences early in life can lead to minor childhood behavior problems, which can grow into serious acts of teen violence, according to new research. This "cascading effect" of repeated negative incidents and behaviors is the focus of an article in the November/December edition of the journal Child Development.

Using a novel approach that went beyond simply identifying risk factors, a research team led by a Duke University psychologist measured how violent behavior develops across the life span, from early childhood through adolescence. The researchers tracked 754 children from preschool through adulthood and documented that children who have social and academic problems in elementary school are more likely to have parents who withdraw from them over time. That opens the door for them to make friends with adolescents exhibiting deviant behaviors and, ultimately, leads them to engage in serious and sometimes costly acts of violence.

The developmental path toward violent outcomes was largely the same for boys and girls, said Kenneth A. Dodge, the lead author of the study and director of the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University.

Dodge and his colleagues in the Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group also found that the cascade could be traced back to children born with biological risks or born into economically disadvantaged environments, both of which make consistent parenting a challenge. They determined biological risk by assessing the temperaments of the children in infancy, based on mothers' reports; those at risk were irritable, easily startled and difficult to calm. These children are more likely to exhibit minor social and cognitive problems upon entering school. From there, the behavior problems begin to "cascade," he said.

"The findings indicate that these trajectories are not inevitable, but can be deflected at each subsequent era in development, through interactions with peers, school, and parents along the way," said Dodge, who is the William McDougall Professor of Public Policy and a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke. "Successful early intervention could redirect paths of antisocial development to prevent serious violent behavior in adolescence," Dodge said.

Fortunately, successful interventions, such as parent training and social cognitive skills training for children, are available, he said.

The article, "Testing an Idealized Dynamic Cascade Model of the Development of Serious Violence in Adolescence," appears in Vol. 79, Issue 6, of the journal Child Development, a publication of the Society for Research in Child Development Inc.

Source: Duke University

Explore further: Mindfulness treatment as effective as CBT for depression and anxiety

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Nail stem cells prove more versatile than press ons

27 minutes ago

There are plenty of body parts that don't grow back when you lose them. Nails are an exception, and a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) reveals some of the r ...

Swift gamma-ray burst mission marks ten years of discovery

38 minutes ago

(Phys.org) —NASA's Swift spacecraft lifted off aboard a Boeing Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., beginning its mission to study gamma-ray bursts and identify their origins. Gamma-ray ...

Cameras detect 'extinct' wallabies near Broome

7 minutes ago

Yawuru Country Managers have found a spectacled hare wallaby (Lagorchestes conspicillatus) population, a species which for the last decade was feared to be locally extinct at Roebuck Plains, adjacent to Broome.

Recommended for you

"Body recognition" compares with fingerprint ID

16 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—University of Adelaide forensic anatomy researchers are making advances in the use of "body recognition" for criminal and missing persons cases, to help with identification when a face ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.