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A new study has suggested that there may be a link between brain injury and rates of crime in young offenders. The research results, conducted by a team from Exeter University and reported by the BBC, demonstrate that a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in early life can have an effect on the propensity of young males to commit criminal offences. Of 197 males aged 11-19 interviewed, half said that they had suffered some kind of TBI in early life, a proportion three times greater than the rest of society. Better detection of these injuries, argues the study, could help to prevent the instances of re-offending. The report, published in the journal Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, took into account a range of factors including criminal records, lack of so-called life opportunities, drug use and medical history. Although brain injury, in isolation, is not considered to be a major factor, it can increase the chances of a child already 'susceptible to crime' being involved in just that. It also says that the greater the number of head injuries a young male has, the more likely he is to become a violent, repeat offender in later life. "The associations between brain injuries and crime are very problematic," Professor Huw Williams told BBC Radio 4's All in the Mind. "It may not be causal in the sense of increasing the chances of crime, but it may well be a factor in terms of re-offending." Prof Williams wants to see increased awareness of the effect that a TBI may have on a child's academnic performance. It may lead to poor concentration, less motivation and poorer memories, which in turn can lead to frustration. He wants to see better neuro-rehabilitation provisions for children showing signs of these afflictions. He also suggests that some of the young men detained by police who are thought to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol may actually be exhibiting symptoms of a TBI if they are slurring their speech or unsteady on their feet. It was also revealed that offenders with a brain injury are generally admitted to prison five years earlier than their healthier counterparts, and of the adult prison population, 60% have suffered a TBI at some point. Prof Williams says that TBI may make it "likely that (the prisoners) are starting to have increased problems in terms of the neuro-cognitive effect of a brain injury. "These are things like impulse control problems, not really reading other people that well, understanding the facial expressions of others, maybe being too quick to act on a feeling of threat. "All these kind of factors could be in the mix." The team, although recognizing that its findings may seem alarming to parents of childhood TBI victims, wish to reassure them that such an injury on its own is unlikely to have a major effect unless other factors also come into play.
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