Predisposition to Violence Found


The Toronto Star
One Yonge Street
Toronto, ON

Wednesday, December 14, 1994

By Lisa Priest
Health Policy Reporter

Boys who were rejected by their mothers early in life and
suffered birth complications are predisposed to committing
violent crimes as adults, a new study shows.

The 35-year study  –  the first of its kind  –  found
those baby boys were more prone to commit murders, rapes
and armed robberies as adults, according to the American
Medical Association's Archives of General Psychiatry.

"While only 4.5 per cent of the subjects had both risk
factors, this small group accounted for 18 per cent of all
violent crimes," said psychology professor Adrian Raine of
the University of Southern California, who was involved
in the study published yesterday.

"If we can provide pre-natal and post-natal services, we could
reduce violence by 18 per cent," he said, adding that the
violent crimes include attempted murder, assault, illegal
possession of a weapon and threats of violence.

Birth complications included breech deliveries, forceps deliveries,
being delivered with the umbilical cord around the neck and
suffering a lack of oxygen, according to the study of 4,269
boys born in Copenhagen between September 1959 and December 1961.

The boys were picked because Denmark's National Crime Register
holds the "most systematic and accurate crime records in the
world," Raine said in a telephone interview.

Researchers followed the boys into young adulthood and checked
their criminal status from age 17 to 19 with the register,
where all police contacts and court decisions involving Danish
citizens are recorded.

Early childhood rejection was defined as whether the pregnancy
was unwanted, the mother tried to abort the fetus or the infant
was placed in a full-time institution such as a hospital or
social service care for more than four months during the first
year of life.

However, the mere presence of either birth complications or
maternal rejection did not predispose a child to violence, Raine
said.  But "when you place the two together, it's like an explosion."

That's because children with birth complications sometimes suffer
brain dysfunction that can lead to a lower intelligence, school
failure and then work failure, he said.

And children who have not bonded with their mothers in the first
year of life sometimes become "affection-less" and unable to have
"meaningful, intimate relationships."

"If you don't care about bonding with someone, shoving a knife
in someone's back or blowing a hole in their head may not bother
you," he said.

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