A new study has suggested that there may be a link between rates of crime in young offenders and brain injury.
The research results, conducted by a team from Exeter University and reported by the BBC, demonstrate that a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in early life can have an effect on the propensity of young males to commit criminal offences.
Out of the 197 males aged 11-19 interviewed, almost half of them reported that they had suffered some kind of TBI in early life, about three times more than the rest of society.
Better detection, says the study, could help to prevent re-offending.
The findings, published in the journal Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, took into account a range of factors including medical history, lack of life opportunities and drug abuse.
Although brain injury alone is not considered to be a major factor, it can increase the chances of a child already ‘susceptible to crime’ committing an offence, with multiple head injuries increasing the chance of the injury sufferer committing repetitive and violent criminal acts.
“The associations between brain injuries and crime are very problematic,” Professor Huw Williams told Radio 4’s All in the Mind.
“It may not be causal in the sense of increasing the chances of crime, but it may well be a factor in terms of re-offending.”
Brain injury and academic difficulties
Brain injuries can lead to problems with concentration and memory which may have a knock-on effect on academic performance, says Prof Williams. He wants to see increased awareness of this problem and better neuro-rehabilitation provisions for children showing signs of these afflictions.
He also suggests that some young men detained by police may be thought to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, whereas any slurred speech they may be exhibiting could be a symptom of a TBI.
It was also revealed that offenders with a brain injury are generally admitted to prison five years earlier than their healthier counterparts, and of the adult prison population, 60% have suffered a TBI at some point.
Prof Williams says that TBI may make it “likely that (the prisoners) are starting to have increased problems in terms of the neuro-cognitive effect of a brain injury.
“These are things like impulse control problems, not really reading other people that well, understanding the facial expressions of others, maybe being too quick to act on a feeling of threat.
“All these kind of factors could be in the mix.”
The research team insists that, while its findings may seem alarming, the brain injury is just one factor and the conclusions should not alarm parents of a child who has sustained a TBI.
Source: BBC News
Date Published: November 11, 2010
Author: David Brown