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Understanding a Criminal Mind and How to Spot It in Children

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Crime is still prevalent in the United States, with the overall rate of violent crime at 382.9 per 100,000 inhabitants, and a property crime rate of 2,199.5 per 100,000 inhabitants, both as per 2018 records. Violent crime refers to murder, rape, robbery, sexual assault, and assault, whereas property crime is instances of theft or unlawful destruction of property, either from the absence of force or through threatening a victim.

Among violent crimes, aggravated assault is the most common, while it is larceny-theft for property crime. Despite law enforcement, these crimes still persist every day. That said, what makes criminals still act on their impulses even if they’re aware of the consequences? Does a criminal mind begin to manifest at childhood? Let’s find out.

Studies About the Criminal Mind

A team of psychologists led by Dustin Pardini, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh conducted a study about the brain structure’s link to crime. It was found that the amygdala, the part of the brain involved in fear and aggression, is implicated in acts of crime. Pardini’s team discovered that 26-year-old men with lower amygdala volumes are over three times more likely to show aggression, violence, and psychopathic traits than men of the same age with amygdalas of normal sizes.

Another study, led by University of Alabama psychologist Andrea Glenn, PhD, also connected amygdala to crime. But apart from its size, her study also found that the amygdala’s functioning could also be reduced among criminals and offenders.

A study led by Adrian Raine, DPhil, of the Department of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania and Yu Gao, Ph.D., of CUNY-Brooklyn, has revealed that amygdala deficits are identifiable, albeit indirectly, in children as young as three years old. They had tested fear conditioning among 1,795 three-year-olds through their sweat responses to two tones: one followed by a loud, unpleasant ring and the other played alone.

Twenty years later, the researchers traced back the kids who committed a crime and found that they were the ones who “failed” demonstrating fear conditioning in the past. They had been fearless in situations where most of us would normally be fearful, suggesting amygdala issues.

Psychologist Kent Kiehl, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the University of New Mexico discovered that another part of the brain, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), is also linked to crime. The ACC is involved in behavioral regulation and impulses. The psychologists found that convicts with lower ACC levels are more likely to relapse into criminal acts after being released from prison than convicts with higher ACC activity.

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Warning Signs of a Criminal Mind in Children

Children as young as two years old can already exhibit rebellious behavior, which would only worsen as they get older if not addressed immediately. Knowing the signs of a criminal mind will help in preventing potential dangerous behavior.

Violent anger outbursts, even with little to no provocation, can be a sign. Extreme mood swings can indicate a serious behavioral problem. So if your child is often bad-tempered or violent at home and school, observe them closely. If their outbursts come from being consistently disobedient, it can also be a sign of a behavioral problem called oppositional behavioral disorder.

Fearlessness, despite awareness of a consequence of wrongdoing or recklessness, may motivate them to commit a crime. It shows that they lack empathy, which makes them poorly connect with their feelings and those of others. The detachment can drive them to manipulate their peers and family or exhibit cruelty toward them. Mental illnesses such as depression can also make them detach themselves, but extreme social isolation can be a risk factor of developing a criminal mind.

Although not of all these signs can evolve into a criminal mind when they get older, it’s still important to address them. Even if the studies suggested that biological factors are linked to crime, it doesn’t mean that criminals are born.

With discipline and nurturing, children will learn the value of abiding by the law. In case they still commit a crime, parents can bail them out if their offenses aren’t grave. You can reach out to bail bond agents in Utah, for example, and take the chance to hear out from your kid what made them commit a crime.

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