Head Injury Link to Violent Behavior Confirmed

An eight-year study from the University of Michigan School of Public Health found that young people with a head injury within the past year were even more likely to report violent behavior.

Young people who suffer a head injury are more likely to engage in violent behavior, an eight-year study from the University of Michigan School of Public Health concluded. The Association of Schools of Public Health included a link to the school's news release in the Research and Reports section of its June 17 Friday Letter, and the study is published in Pediatrics.

This is one of the few studies to examine long-term effects of head injuries in a general population of young adults; most other similar studies have been conducted in prison populations, according to the school. Its lead author is Dr. Sarah Stoddard, a research assistant professor. "These are not necessarily sports-playing injuries," said Stoddard, a research fellow at Michigan's School of Nursing. "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."

She used data from Michigan's Flint Adolescent Study, a study on which Dr. Marc Zimmerman, professor of public health and chair of Michigan’s department of health behavior and health education, is the principal investigator. This research followed a group of ninth graders from four schools in Flint, Mich. As they grew up, conducting annual interviews for an eight-year period. In years five and six, participants were asked if they had ever sustained a head injury. Those who said yes – about 23 percent – reported more violent behavior in the eighth year of the study.

Stoddard and Zimmerman realized that an injury reported in year seven of the study predicted violent behavior in year eight. They defined a head injury as having been knocked unconscious or sustaining a concussion or a fractured skull.

"We found that the link between a head injury and later violence was stronger when a head injury was more recent, even after controlling for other factors, including previous violent behavior," Stoddard said.

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