Research has shown a strong relationship between traumatic brain injury (TBI) and violent criminal behavior. It has been discovered, through research, that people who suffer from TBI have a stronger inclination toward deviant behavior. Detailed analysis of the research suggests that if TBI is treated, the individual has a better chance of rehabilitation, thus leading to the prevention of violent crimes. Scientists have pinpointed several areas of the brain that, if damaged, lead to violent crime. This paper will explain how TBI effects the brain, in particular the prefrontal cortex, and why it is important for further research to be done on this subject.
The Problem and Its Setting
Violent crime may be linked to TBI. In the event that a person sustains a severe blow to the head, especially during the developmental years, the risk of developing a predisposition to violent crime is significantly increased. This paper presents the analysis of two studies in which the results give credence to the link between TBI and violent criminal behaviors. The studies conducted involve violent criminals, nonviolent criminals, and noncriminals.
For the sake of this study, I will give a numerical value to each study. Study 1 consists of 49 male prisoners serving time in the Western Andalusia Penitentiary. Study 2 reports the findings of positron emission tomography (PET) scans of 41 murderers and 41 control participants with mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, organic brain damage and a history of head injury (Raine, Buchsbaum, & LaCasse, 1997).
There are several objectives in this study: (a) to provide detailed data analysis from case studies involving participants that have sustained TBI, (b) to demonstrate the relationship between TBI and violent criminal behaviors, (c) to advocate the importance of further study in said relationship, and (d) to suggest that further research on this issue may result in a plan of rehabilitation and/or prevention. The general aim of this study is to show the relationship between TBI and violent criminal behaviors.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI): “a form of acquired brain injury, occurs when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain. TBI can result when the head suddenly and violently hits an object, or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue” (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 2010, ¶ 1).
Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: measures the functions of distinct areas of the human body. When used to scan the brain, it can show the difference in chemical processes of a healthy brain, and that of a diseased and/or damaged brain (Positron emission tomography, 1998).
The research design was a comparative study between violent criminals, nonviolent criminals, and noncriminals. Data was collected from two studies and then analyzed. Information on the types of criminal behavior and brain injuries were obtained from the studies. The data extracted from the studies were then entered into a data analysis package to ensure accuracy. Tables display the results and offer a comprehensive overview of the data.
One hypothesis was tested in this study. This was; injury to the brain increases the risk of violents crimin
The target population for this study are violent criminals and a control group of non-violent participants. In both studies, the criminal participants are currently serving a prison sentence for their crime. A control group is used in Study 2, and compared to inmates who are convicted murderers. The specific population focus was on violent criminals in order to determine if they have sustained TBI, and if so, if that factor contributes to their deviant behavior.
Sample Size and Sampling Strategy
Study 1 is a stratified random sample of 49 male prisoners who are serving a sentence for violent crimes. This group was divided into two groups; the first group is comprised of 36 inmates serving time for violent offenses including sexual aggression, homicide, and armed robbery. The second group is comprised of 13 inmates serving time for white-collar crimes with the absence of violence (León-Carrión & Javier Chacartegui Ramos, 2003, p. 209). Study 2 is also a stratified random sample of 41 murderers, who plead not guilty by reason of insanity, serving a prison sentence and a control group of 41 participants that suffer from known mental illness. Mental illnesses include: schizophrenia, organic brain damage and a history of head injury. A total 131 participants are studied and compared .
Data and Data Analysis Strategy
The particular data extracted from the studies were (a) type of crime-violent or nonviolent, and (b) medical background of the participant-history of TBI. In Study 1, participants were interviewed separately and the VIOL01 epidemiological questionnaire was administered. In Study 2, PET scans were administered to both the violent criminal participants and to the control group. The results of the PET scans were then compared for analysis. The uptake of glucose in various brain areas was measured during simple tasks. Both hemispheres of the brain were compared. This particular study found six areas of the brain that had metabolic abnormalities. These areas being: the prefrontal cortex, corpus callosum, posterior parietal cortex, thalamus, amygdale, and the hippocampus.
Null Hypothesis 1: Injury to the brain increases the risk of violent criminal behavior. Individual responses for Study 1 have shown that there is a significant difference in those that have had TBI and those who have not.
Syudy 2 shows that the results from the PET scans are nearly identical between that of convicted murderers and individuals with mental illness (Raine, Buchsbaum, & LaCasse, 1997, p. 499). The administration of the PET scans were identical for each participant in order to insure accuracy.
There is conclusive evidence to support the hypothesis stated in this paper. The tests that were conducted show a definite link between TBI and deviant behavior. The findings strongly indicate that TBI can cause deficits in the prefrontal cortex, thus leading to a predisposition to violent behaviors. It should also be noted that proper treatment for TBI can rehabilitate an individual and prevent violent crimes from occurring. In Study 1, for example, all of the participants went untreated for their head injuries. If these injuries would have been treated, then in all likelihood, the tendency for violent behavior could have eradicated.
Summary, Conclusion, and Recommendation
The data clearly shows that there is a relationship between TBI and violent behavior. Further research is needed in order to fully understand this relationship. It is my belief that rehabilitation of such behavior can be achieved with more research. Further research should include a larger population sample and the implementation of PET scans between known violent offenders and normal individuals. Such research could further show the difference between a healthy brain and that of a damaged brain, leading to possible treatment and rehabilitation.
León-Carrión, J., & Javier Chacartegui Ramos, F. (2003). Blows to the head during development can predispose to violent criminal behaviour: rehabilitation of consequences of head injury is a measure for crime prevention. Brain Injury, 17(3), 207. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.
Raine, A., Buchsbaum, M., LaCasse, L. (1997). Brain abnormalities in murderers indicated by positron emission tomography. Society of Biological Psychiatry, 1997. Retrieved April 24, 2010, from http://www-rcf.usc.edu/~raine/Brain%20Abnormalities.pdf
*Note: I was unable to publish the tables that go along with this paper that show detailed results of the studies. The format currently being used here on AC does nor support such charts.