'Fearless' 3-Year-Olds Might Be Tomorrow's Criminals

In fact, according to Gao, some at-risk children between the ages of 3 and 5 who have benefited from those programs, which include sound nutrition, adequate physical exercise and cognitive brain stimulation, had shown an improvement in brain functioning by age 11 that reduced the chances of criminal behavior by 35 percent 20 years later.

Addressing parental concerns, Benedek added: "Don't be discouraged if your child has early brain dysfunction. It doesn't mean that he or she is going to grow up and be a criminal. The brain can change and grow."

More information

For more on the causes of violent behavior among children, go to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

SOURCES: Yu Gao, Ph.D., research associate, department of criminology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; Elissa P. Benedek, M.D., adjunct professor, psychiatry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, psychiatrist, Ann Arbor, Mich., and past president, American Psychiatric Association; Nov. 16, 2009, American Journal of Psychiatry, online

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