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Brain Injuries Could Lead Children Into Becoming Criminals

Update Date: Oct 22, 2012 05:25 PM EDT

A new study suggests that children who suffer brain injuries are more likely to grow up to be criminals.

The study, from the University of Exeter, is supports the findings of a separate study conducted by the Children's Commissioner for England on the impact of injuries on maturing brains and the social consequences, Mail Online reports.

In the current study, Professor Huw Williams from the University of Exeter's Centre for Clinical Neuropsychology Research, describes traumatic brain injury as a "silent epidemic" which is believed to be frequently affecting children who fell down while playing sports or got into physical fights, met with accidents etc.

The consequences of a brain injury could include memory loss.

According to the study, which included a survey of 200 adult male prisoners in Britain, the level of brain injuries among criminals is much higher than in the general population.

The survey found that about 60 per cent of the offenders claimed to have suffered a head injury. While the study does acknowledge the presence of underlying risk factors for brain injury and offending behavior, it says that perhaps, improving treatment and introducing screening for young offenders could reduce crime and save public money.

"The young brain, being a work in progress, is prone to "risk taking". And so it is more vulnerable to getting injured in the first place, and suffering subtle to more severe problems in attention, concentration and managing one's mood and behavior," Professor Williams was quoted as saying by Mail Online.

Williams further noted that brain injury is rarely ever a consideration while during the assessment of the rehabilitative needs of an offender.

"Yet brain injury has been shown to be a condition that may increase the risk of offending, and it is also a strong "marker" for other key factors that indicate risk for offending," he said.

Also, according to the report, young offenders are believed to have a reading age below that of criminal responsibility, which is 10 in England and Wales.

Maggie Atkinson, Children's Commissioner for England, asks the government, the judiciary and others in the youth justice system to identify neurodevelopmental conditions in young people more rapidly.

"Our failure to identify [these] disorders and put in place measures to prevent young people with such conditions from offending is a tragedy. It affects the victims of their crimes, the children themselves, their families, the services seeking to change offenders' lives for the better, and wider society," she said.

"Although children who have neurodevelopmental disorders and/or who have suffered brain injuries may know the difference between right and wrong, they may not understand the consequences of their actions, the processes they then go through in courts or custody, nor have the means to address their behaviour to avoid reoffending," she added.

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