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December 1994

Birth Complications Combined With Early Maternal Rejection at Age 1 Year Predispose to Violent Crime at Age 18 Years

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychology, University of Southern California-Los Angeles (Drs Raine, Brennan, and Mednick), and the Institute of Preventive Medicine, Copenhagen Health Services, Copenhagen, Denmark (Dr Mednick).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1994;51(12):984-988. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1994.03950120056009

Background:  This study tests the biosocial interaction hypothesis that birth complications when combined with early maternal rejection of the infant predispose to adult violent crime.

Methods:  This hypothesis was tested using a cohort of 4269 consecutive live male births on whom measures of birth complications (age 0), early maternal rejection (age 1 year), and violent crime (age 18 years) were collected.

Results:  A significant interaction (P<.0001) between birth complications and early maternal rejection indicated that those who suffered both birth complications and early child rejection were most likely to become violent offenders in adulthood. While only 4.5% of the subjects had both risk factors, this small group accounted for 18% of all violent crimes. The effect was specific to violence and was not observed for nonviolent criminal offending.

Conclusions:  To our knowledge, this is the first study to show that birth complications in combination with early child rejection predispose to violent crime. The findings illustrate the critical importance of integrating biological with social measures to fully understand how violence develops and also suggest that prenatal, perinatal, and early postnatal health care interventions could significantly reduce violence.

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