Neglected boys may turn into violent adolescents

August 19, 2014

Parents who physically neglect their boys may increase the risk that they will raise violent adolescents, according to Penn State sociologists.

In a study of currently incarcerated male adolescents, physical during childhood arose as the strongest predictor of violent behavior, said William McGuigan, associate professor of human development and family studies at Penn State Shenango. Researchers are just beginning to acknowledge the powerful role of neglect in influencing adolescent violence, he added.

"One of the problems with studying neglect is that it is an act of omission, rather than one of commission. In other words, it is characterized as the absence of an act, rather than an actual act of mistreatment," said McGuigan. "However, now we have better measures and larger databases to document neglect."

Examples of physical neglect include not taking a sick or injured child to the doctor, improperly clothing a child and not feeding a child, according to the researchers who will present their findings today (Aug. 18) at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in San Francisco.

The study indicated that while physical abuse is a significant contributor to violent behavior, physical neglect alone is an even stronger predictor of male adolescent violence than physical abuse, or even physical abuse and neglect combined.

"It sounds somewhat contrarian, but the might at least show that parents are paying some type of attention to the child," said McGuigan, who worked with Roxanne Atterholt, instructor, and Jack A. Luchette, an undergraduate student, both in in and family studies at Penn State Shenango.

McGuigan said that understanding how neglect can influence in adolescent males may lead to better education for caregivers and better care for at-risk youths.

"We have to look more into neglect and become more aware of how it may cause some of these violent behaviors," said McGuigan. "From that, we can build early preventative care programs than can help avoid these negative outcomes."

The research could also create assessments that, for example, might help protect people who care for adolescents by identifying youths who are more prone to violence.

The researchers analyzed data taken from a survey of 85 subjects, who are residents of a Pennsylvania detention center for delinquent males. In the survey, 25 of the participants, or 29.4 percent of the group, said that they experienced at least one incidence of childhood neglect. Acts of violence included fighting with students or parents, hitting teachers or instructors and using a weapon to scare, rob or injure another person.

Sexual abuse was not included in the survey. Only two subjects responded that they were sexually abused in the survey, which was not enough to provide conclusive findings, McGuigan said.

Explore further: Neurologists should ask patients about abuse

Related Stories

Neurologists should ask patients about abuse

January 25, 2012
A new position statement issued by the American Academy of Neurology calls on neurologists to begin screening their patients for abusive or violent treatment by family, caretakers or others. The position statement is published ...

Too little known on how primary care docs can prevent child abuse

June 10, 2013
(HealthDay)—A lack of research makes it impossible to recommend how primary care doctors can prevent abuse and neglect of children who show no signs or symptoms of maltreatment, according to a new U.S. Preventive Services ...

Severity, not frequency, of abuse may predict children's mental health

May 20, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—How severely children are abused, rather than how frequently, appears to predict which children will suffer serious mental health outcomes, according to the first study from one of the most in-depth analyses ...

Past abuse leads to loss of gray matter in brains of adolescents

December 5, 2011
Adolescents who were abused and neglected have less gray matter in some areas of the brain than young people who have not been maltreated, a new Yale School of Medicine study shows.

Nearly one in eight American children are maltreated before age 18

June 2, 2014
By the time they reach age 18, about 12% of American children experience a confirmed case of maltreatment in the form of neglect, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, according to a new study by researchers at Yale University.

Recommended for you

History of stress increases miscarriage risk, says new review

August 17, 2017
A history of exposure to psychological stress can increase the risk of miscarriage by upto 42 per cent, according to a new review.

Study finds children pay close attention to potentially threatening information, avoid eye contact when anxious

August 17, 2017
We spend a lot of time looking at the eyes of others for social cues – it helps us understand a person's emotions, and make decisions about how to respond to them. We also know that adults avoid eye contact when anxious. ...

Communicating in a foreign language takes emotion out of decision making

August 16, 2017
If you could save the lives of five people by pushing another bystander in front of a train to his death, would you do it? And should it make any difference if that choice is presented in a language you speak, but isn't your ...

Precision medicine opens the door to scientific wellness preventive approaches to suicide

August 15, 2017
Researchers have developed a more precise way of diagnosing suicide risk, by developing blood tests that work in everybody, as well as more personalized blood tests for different subtypes of suicidality that they have newly ...

US antidepressant use jumps 65 percent in 15 years

August 15, 2017
(HealthDay)—The number of Americans who say they've taken an antidepressant over the past month rose by 65 percent between 1999 and 2014, a new government survey finds.

Child's home learning environment predicts 5th grade academic skills

August 15, 2017
Children whose parents provide them with learning materials like books and toys and engage them in learning activities and meaningful conversations in infancy and toddlerhood are likely to develop early cognitive skills that ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.