Fearless kids more likely to be adult criminals: study

Nov 16, 2009

Children who lack a normal fear response are more likely to commit crimes when they grow up, a study published Monday in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggested.

Researchers assessed the "fear conditioning" of nearly 1,800 three-year-olds by measuring skin activity such as sweat secretion, which is part of the fear , after the children had been blasted by a short, loud, unpleasant sound or a neutral tone.

Then, 20 years later, the researchers looked at the official court records of the study participants.

They found that, by the age of 23, 137 of the study participants had committed serious crimes. None of the adults with a criminal record had shown a normal fear response at age three.

Participants who had not committed a crime by age 23, on the other hand, had a normal reaction to the loud, unpleasant noise when they were toddlers.

The researchers hypothesized that the tendency to take up a life of crime as an adult was due less to social conditioning, ethnicity or gender, and more to certain parts of the brain not working as they should.

"The findings of this study potentially provide some support for a neurodevelopmental theory of antisocial and ," they wrote.

"If crime is in part neurodevelopmentally determined, efforts to prevent and treat this worldwide behavior problem will increasingly rely on early health interventions," the study said.

For instance, prenatal programs to reduce maternal smoking, alcohol and have been shown to reduce juvenile delinquency 15 years later, the study said.

And children aged three to five years old who have a good diet, get plenty of exercise and are mentally stimulated show better brain functioning six years later -- and their rate of criminal offending as adults was reduced by 35 percent.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Sexualized body image has negative effect on young adolescent girls

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Adult crime linked to childhood anxiety

Nov 03, 2008

Being nervous, socially isolated, anxious or neurotic during childhood protects young men from becoming criminal offenders until they enter adulthood, but the protective effect seems to wear off after the age of 21. These ...

'Fear detector' being developed

Nov 03, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- British scientists are aiming to develop a device that can detect the smell of fear, and that could one day identify terrorists, drug smugglers, and other criminals.

Recommended for you

Social ties matter beyond bushfires

18 minutes ago

In the first major release of findings from the Beyond Bushfires study of the aftermath of the Black Saturday bushfires, researchers from the University of Melbourne have been able to show the social element ...

Mom's prenatal hardship turns baby's genes on and off

48 minutes ago

In January 1998 five days of freezing rain collapsed the electrical grid of the Canadian province of Québec. The storm left more than 3 million people without electricity for anywhere from a few hours to ...

Smoking rates high among people with psychotic illness

1 hour ago

The rate of smoking among people in Adelaide's northern suburbs who suffer from a psychotic illness is much greater than the national average and is contributing to other major health problems, according to new research from ...

EEG test to help understand and treat schizophrenia

18 hours ago

Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have validated an EEG test to study and treat schizophrenia. The findings, published in two separate studies, offer a clinical test that could be used ...

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.