Nurses can spot future killers at only three years old
ROBBERS, rapists and murderers of the future can be identified before they reach their third birthday, a world expert on crime and violence told a conference yesterday.
George Hosking, a clinical criminologist in the UK, who spent nine years researching violence, said research showed that nurses could predict future criminal tendences 18 years in advance.
"The single most effective way to stop crime and violence is to ensure that infants are reared in a way that fosters good mental health and wellbeing. The surest way to do this is to support parents, carers and families," he added.
He was speaking at the first Irish forum on infant mental health organised by Youngballymun, a prevention and early intervention programme based in the disadvantaged Dublin suburb of Ballymun.
Referring to the research, he said a major study carried out over 20 years in New Zealand showed health workers could predict those who were likely to be the criminals of the future.
"Boy toddlers who were observed to be at risk by their aggressive or negative behaviour, were nearly five times more likely at age 21 to have abused their partners -- 47pc compared to 9.5pc of others."
"They were also two and a half times more likely to have a criminal conviction, with 55pc of their offences being violent, compared with 18pc of others."
"While fewer of the at-risk girls were involved in antisocial behaviour, of those who were, 30pc had teenage pregnancies and 43pc of them were in violent or abusive relationships by the time they were 21 years," he told the gathering.
The findings of this Dunedin New Zealand study has been backed up by others in the USA and the UK.
"It's madness that policy makers aren't focusing state investment in the first three years of life."
"We know that violence is a preventable disease. While it is one that is difficult to cure, prevention is really simple.
"Children who are loved and who receive fair, firm discipline do not become violent teenagers or adults. Children who are not treated well are more likely to become involved in crime, violent behaviour or abuse."
Infants in loveless or abusive homes will have their emotions hard-wired in the first 18 months of life.
At birth, a baby's brain has 50 trillion synapses, or connections which are formed by early experiences. By three, that has increased to 1,000 trillion.