A recent study confirms the link between head injury in childhood and violence in adulthood, while another study suggests a link between even minor head injuries and schizophrenia.
José León Carrión and colleagues compared the histories of violent and nonviolent offenders, focusing on past school performance and whether or not subjects had a history of head injuries. While both groups had done poorly in school, the researchers say, "What differentiated the violent from the non-violent group was a history of having suffered head injuries that were never treated."
The new findings are consistent with earlier research showing that even mild head injuries can lead to hyperactivity, aggression, and antisocial behavior (see related article, Crime Times, 1998, Vol. 4, No. 2, Page 5), and with findings linking head injuries to later aberrant behavior, including domestic abuse and pedophilia (see related articles, Crime Times, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 3, Page 4 and Crime Times, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 1, Page 3).
In related research, Philip AbdelMalik and colleagues studied children from 23 families with multiple occurrences of schizophrenia, comparing schizophrenic individuals to their unaffected siblings. The researchers found that schizophrenic subjects were significantly more likely than their non-schizophrenic siblings to have suffered childhood head injuries. In addition, they discovered that among the schizophrenic subjects, those with a history of head injuries during childhood had developed schizophrenia an average of five years earlier than those with no history of head injuries. Even though subjects had sustained only mild head injuries, the severity of the injury correlated with the age of onset of schizophrenia.
The researchers conclude, "Mild childhood head injury may play a role in the expression of schizophrenia in families with a strong genetic predisposition."
"Blows to the head during development can predispose to violent criminal behaviour: rehabilitation of consequences of head injury is a measure for crime prevention," José León-Carrión and Francisco Javier Chacartegui Ramos, Brain Injury, Vol. 17, No. 3, March 2003, 207-16. Address: José León Carrión, Human Neuropsychology Laboratory, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Seville, Spain.
"Childhood head injury and expression of schizophrenia in multiply affected families," Philip AbdelMalik, Janice Husted, Eva W. C. Chow, and Anne S. Bassett, Archives of General Psychiatry, Vol. 60, No. 3, March 2003, 231-6. Address: Philip AbdelMalik, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M6J 1H4.