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People with early TBI more likely to offend as adults

Research at UC finds people with early TBI more likely to offend as adults

November 29, 2012

A University of Canterbury (UC) researcher says that people who experienced traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a child were more likely to have had subsequent involvement with offending or antisocial behaviour as adults and the risk increased with the severity of the TBI.

A TBI is caused by an external force, such as a bump or blow to the head, which disrupts the normal function of the brain. The effects range from mild memory difficulties to dementia, seizures and depression.

UC researcher Dr Randolph Grace looked into the issue and impacts of TBI with lead researcher Dr Audrey McKinlay from Melbourne’s Monash University. They were funded by grants from the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation and Lotteries Grant Health Funding.

``There is increasing evidence that childhood TBI can result in a number of negative outcomes during adulthood including greater participation in offending behaviour,’’ Dr Grace said today.

``However, there is little information regarding the characteristics of at risk children, removing the opportunity for early intervention. We looked to identify the characteristics of individuals who had experienced a TBI event in childhood who had an increased risk of offending behaviour in adulthood.’’

The research team studied Canterbury children who had experienced an injury event as a child from birth to 17 years old. The participants were now 18 years or older and more than five years since their injury.

They looked at participants’ lifetime involvement in offending behaviour. Participants were also assessed on emotional behaviour looking at malevolent aggression, social anxiety and social self-esteem).

``We found TBI was significantly associated with an increased risk of offending behaviour. Our analysis revealed that for people with moderate to severe TBI the strongest predictors of offending behaviour was the TBI status - higher levels of malevolent aggression and lower levels of social anxiety.

``This research has made a major contribution to reducing offending behaviour for individuals with TBI by identifying measures of emotional behaviour as useful predictors of offending behaviour and offer an opportunity for early intervention.’’

Recent research has found an estimated 36,000 new TBI occur every year in New Zealand far surpassing the number of heart attacks and more than five times the number of new strokes.

Most were due to falls, 38 per cent, followed by mechanical forces, transport accidents and assaults.


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