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Intervening in Preschool Years Can Prevent Juvenile Deliquency
Date:10/8/2007

Sessions alter at-risk kids' stress responses, study suggests

MONDAY, Oct. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Parental action can alter a preschoolers' biological response to stress, lowering the chance that even a high-risk child will become a juvenile delinquent, U.S. researchers report.

The finding suggests "that antisocial behavior isn't hard wired, and parents can be part of the solution," lead author Laurie Miller Brotman, associate professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement .

It's known that children with older delinquent siblings are at high risk for becoming juvenile delinquents themselves, noted the study authors.

Research has shown that highly aggressive children and delinquent teens have abnormal stress responses, especially in social situations. These youngsters seem to have less awareness of social cues and don't respond to positive reinforcement in the same way as normally developing children.

This new study, published in the October issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, found that family interventions that alter stress response in at-risk children may reduce the risk of delinquency and psychiatric illness later in life.

The study included 92 families with a preschooler and an older child who'd been in trouble with the law. Some of families were assigned to take part in family intervention sessions that included 22 group sessions and 10 home visits from mental health professionals over eight months. In these sessions, the preschoolers learned to socialize with peers, to identify feelings and to follow rules.

Other families were assigned to a control group that received no intervention.

Cortisol (a stress hormone) levels in saliva were checked to assess stress levels in the children before and after a socially stressful situation, such as interacting with a group of unfamiliar children. The
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