Vol. 7, No. 1, 2001 Page 3

NIMH publication reveals growing awareness of biological influence on violence, criminality

A recent National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) fact sheet on "Child and Adolescent Violence Research" reflects a growing realization of the powerful role that biological factors play in violence and antisocial behavior. Some quotes from the fact sheet:


"Research... has investigated the relationship between adolescent problem behavior and cognitive deficits.... In one study of 13 year olds, individual differences—such as deficits in sensory, perceptual, and cognitive abilities, including the use of language—were shown to predict participation in crime five years later. For instance, boys with poorer verbal functioning initiated delinquent behavior at younger ages. It has also been demonstrated that boys with poorer neuropsychological functioning, especially verbal functioning at age 13, were more likely to have committed crimes at age 18 than were their counterparts with better neuropsychological functioning at age 13."


"It is very common for youth with conduct problems to also display symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder of childhood.... This co- occurrence is often associated with an early onset of aggression and impairment in personal, interpersonal, and family functioning."


[R]esearch on differences in the magnitude of genetic and environmental influences on different kinds of conduct problems is providing a key to understanding the developmental origins of antisocial behavior. Many twin and adoption studies indicate that child and adolescent antisocial behavior is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors, suggesting that genetic factors directly influence cognitive and temperamental predispositions to antisocial behavior. These predisposing child factors and socializing environments, in turn, influence antisocial behavior."


"There is strong evidence for the co-occurrence of two or more syndromes or disorders among children with behavioral and emotional problems.... The obviously angry adolescent has other conditions such as anxiety disorders and depression... more often than would occur by chance. Research in this area indicates that very young children with conduct problems and anxiety disorders or depression display more serious aggression than youths with only conduct problems."


"Child and Adolescent Violence Research," NIH Publication No. 00- 4706, April 2000. Address: NIMH, Office of Communications and Public Liaison, 6001 Executive Blvd., Room 8184, MSC 9663, Bethesda, MD 20892-9663, nimhinfo@nih.gov, www.nimh.nih.gov.

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