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Child Health

"Poisoned Development: Assessing Childhood Lead Exposure as a Cause of Crime in a Birth Cohort Followed Through Adolescence"

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To the list of problems caused by childhood lead exposure, Harvard University researchers add one more: teenage delinquency.

A new study in the journal Criminology tracked 1,225 Chicago children, starting in infancy, over 18 years. Among the topics the researchers asked parents to report on was delinquency, including whether the child bullied others, destroyed property, or misbehaved at school. The questions were used to create a rating on a 10-point gauge of delinquency.

After controlling for differences in family income as well as anxiety, depression, impulsivity, and antisocial behavior in early childhood, the researchers found early lead exposure was strongly associated with poor behavior in both childhood and adolescence. Every increase of lead in the blood of 1 microgram per deciliter during preschool-age tests was associated with a more than 9 percent increase in that child's delinquency score as a teenager.

Vol. 37, Issue 24, Page 4

Published in Print: March 21, 2018, as Child Health
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