Head injuries in young people may be linked to more violent behavior

Head injuries may be linked with subsequent violent behavior in young people, a study finds.

The study, published the June issue of the journal Pediatrics, followed 850 ninth-graders from four schools who were at risk for dropping out of high school. They had grade-point averages of 3.0 or below at the end of eighth grade and were not emotionally or developmentally impaired.

Researchers conducted yearly interviews with the participants, and in addition to asking about head injuries and violent behavior, test subjects were also asked about other issues such as substance abuse, nonviolent delinquent behavior and sexual activity.

In the fifth and sixth years of the study, about 23% of participants said they had ever sustained a head injury. That group exhibited more violent behavior in the eighth year of the study than those who did not have head injuries. The link between head injuries and interpersonal violence was even stronger when the injury was more recent (within the last year), and that stayed the same even after researchers adjusted for other variables including race, gender, previous head injury, substance use, delinquency and past violent behavior.


Although researchers didn’t determine the type or severity of head injury the participants suffered, they did note that it should be included in future studies. In the study, they wrote: “Future research that describes head injury in more detail in a general population study may also be useful to determine how the extent of the injury may be related to interpersonal violence. This may be useful for developing violence prevention strategies for this potentially high-risk group.”

In a news release, lead author Sarah Stoddard, a research assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health said: “These are not necessarily sports-playing injuries. They could be from a car accident or from previous violent behavior, but it does support some of the sports research that’s been going on with concussions.”