Babies and children

Childhood sweets link to adult violence

The making of a criminal mind May encourage impulsive behaviour

Children who eat sweets and chocolate every day are more likely to be violent as adults, new research has found.

Results from the research showed that 10-year olds who ate sweets and chocolate almost every day were significantly more likely to have been convicted for violence at age 34.

Previous research has shown that diet can be associated with behavioural problems, including aggression. However, UK scientists wanted to find out how childhood diet affected behaviour as an adult.

In the study, published in this month's British Journal of Psychiatry, scientists analysed data from almost 17,500 people born in 1970. They discovered that 69% of participants who were violent at the age of 34 had eaten sweets and chocolate nearly every day during childhood, compared to 42% who were non-violent.

This association between sweets and violence as an adult remained after adjusting for other factors such as where the child lived, educational qualifications and car ownership.

The researchers put forward several explanations for the link. Dr. Simon Moore from Cardiff University said: "Our favoured explanation is that giving children sweets and chocolate regularly may stop them learning how to wait to obtain something they want.

"Not being able to defer gratification may push them towards more impulsive behaviour, which is strongly associated with delinquency.

The researchers concluded: "Targeting resources at improving children's diet may improve health and reduce aggression."

This article was published on Thu 1 October 2009

Image © Paul Moore -

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