Navigation Links
'Fearless' 3-Year-Olds Might Be Tomorrow's Criminals

20-year study finds adults with records were more likely as tots to not be afraid

TUESDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Children who are fearless at 3 years of age might just be poised for a life of crime.

According to a new study, poor fear conditioning at the tender age of 3 can predispose that person to break the law as an adult. Yet other factors, such as education of the parents, large family size, nutrition, physical activity, configuration of the household and other elements also play a role, the researchers concluded.

"There's no 100 percent correspondence between conditioning deficits and crime: Not all poor conditioners will become criminals and not all criminals have the early fear conditioning deficits," explained study author Yu Gao, a research associate in the department of criminology at the University of Pennsylvania. His findings are published in the Nov. 16 online issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Specifically, what Gao and his associates set out to determine is whether dysfunction of the amygdala, an almond-shaped mass that resides deep in the human brain and is linked to fear conditioning as well as emotions and mental state, leads to an inherent intrepidness and disregard for the law.

Twenty years ago, the research team tested almost 1,800 children who were 3 years old from Mauritius, an Indian Ocean island off the coast of southeastern Africa, by exposing them to two sets of sounds, one with a short shrill noise, and the other deeper in pitch and with a pleasant tone, and then measuring the children's physical responses through an electrode attached to their index and middle fingers. Sweating upon hearing the loud noise indicated a sense of fear, while no sweat meant the child lacked fear -- that is, had poor fear conditioning.

Two decades later, using court records, Gao and his team tracked down 137 study participants -- 131 males and six females -- who had committed serious crimes involving property, drugs, violence and driving. These individuals had shown an absence of fear during testing at age 3, whereas 274 study participants who had grown to adulthood without a criminal record had displayed typical fear responses.

Experts agreed that the findings don't constitute a cause-and-effect situation, but hailed the study for its longevity and what the work adds to what is known about how childhood factors influence adult behavior.

"Any time you have a 20-year study, that's significant," said Dr. Elissa P. Benedek, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based psychiatrist who has worked in private practice with children and adults for more than 40 years and is a past president of the American Psychiatric Association.

"It's good for putting another link in the chain in terms of what is early brain dysfunction, and what increases the risk for such behaviors as attention-deficit disorder and criminal activity. It's another link back to whatever we all ready know about early brain dysfunction that may cause problems later in life," Benedek added.

So what do the results mean for individuals with fear conditioning deficits and their loved ones, and for society at large? It's a wake-up call about potential problems, said Gao and other experts in the field. To enhance the proper working of the amygdala, which is believed to reduce criminal behavior in later life, enrichment programs are essential.

In fact, according to Gao, some at-risk children between the ages of 3 and 5 who have benefited from those programs, which include sound nutrition, adequate physical exercise and cognitive brain stimulation, had shown an improvement in brain functioning by age 11 that reduced the chances of criminal behavior by 35 percent 20 years later.

Addressing parental concerns, Benedek added: "Don't be discouraged if your child has early brain dysfunction. It doesn't mean that he or she is going to grow up and be a criminal. The brain can change and grow."

More information

For more on the causes of violent behavior among children, go to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

SOURCES: Yu Gao, Ph.D., research associate, department of criminology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; Elissa P. Benedek, M.D., adjunct professor, psychiatry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, psychiatrist, Ann Arbor, Mich., and past president, American Psychiatric Association; Nov. 16, 2009, American Journal of Psychiatry, online

Copyright©2009 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved

Related medicine news :

1. Grammy-nominated Singer Angie Stone Encourages African-Americans in Birmingham to Fearlessly FACE Diabetes
2. Nothing Has Stopped This Woman--MS, Divorce, Abuse, Trauma--How to Live Adventurously and Fearlessly No Matter What Happens
3. Country Super Star Taylor Swift Stays Fearless With a Little Help From Milk
4. Gene Linked to Breast Cancer Might Boost Heart Health
5. Rapid Cooling Might Help Heart Attack Patients
6. Paradoxical protein might prevent cancer
7. Trial Data on Anti-Seizure Drug Might Have Been Manipulated: Report
8. Gut Bacteria Might Be Making People Fat
9. Early Use of NSAIDs Might Prevent Alzheimers
10. Physician bias might keep life-saving transplants from black and Hispanic patients
11. New HPV Vaccine Might Stop Vulvar Cancer in its Tracks
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... November 25, 2015 , ... Smiles by Stevens is pleased ... moderate facial wrinkling. While many patients are aware of the benefits of Botox® in ... delivers to those suffering with discomfort, soreness, and pain as a result of Jaw ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... ... Beddit® has launched a new Android app for use with ... more intuitive SleepScore™ that rates sleep quality on a 100-point scale and makes it ... a proprietary algorithm. Beddit analyzes the data to provide an easy to understand scientific ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... Livonia, MI (PRWEB) , ... November 25, 2015 , ... ... at Presence Resurrection Medical Center (RMC) in Chicago, IL, UV Angel is evaluating the ... the medical and surgical intensive care units (totaling 30 beds) from May 2014 through ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... , ... November 25, 2015 , ... Today, Mothers ... our nation’s roadways has dropped below 10,000 for the first time since 2011. In ... 2013. , According to data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... Md (PRWEB) , ... November 25, 2015 , ... ... Hypertension Association (PHA) announces the nation’s Periwinkle Pioneers, individuals and groups responsible for ... of this disease. The Periwinkle Pioneers, nominated by the public, will receive special ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... NEW DELHI , November 25, 2015 ... fear invoked due to repeated failure of IVF cycles. ... Rani Bhatia was totally dejected and had lost all hopes that ... the first Indian miracle child conceived after failure of ... to abroad (UK) before they decided to take one last ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 2015  Array BioPharma Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRY ... Ron Squarer , will present at the ... The public is welcome to participate in the ... website.Event:Piper Jaffray Annual Healthcare ConferencePresenter:  , Ron Squarer, ... p.m. Eastern Time Webcast: , ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , 24. November 2015 Avery ... Pacemaker Systems, ist erfreut, die Berufung von ... bekannt geben zu können. ... --> Foto - ... (Schweden). Von 1984-1986 war er Fellow des ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: