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Friday 21st October 2016

Hormone link to antisocial behaviour

1st October 2008

A study has found that low levels of the stress hormone cortisol have been linked to antisocial behaviour in adolescent boys.


Researchers at Cambridge University discovered that cortisol levels in the body usually surge in stressful situations, a reaction that is believed to help people regulate emotions.

However, the Cambridge scientists saw that this did not happen in boys with a history of severe antisocial behaviour.

The study focussed on subject recruited from schools, pupil referral units and the Youth Offending Service.

Saliva samples were collected over several days from the subjects in a non-stressful environment to measure levels of the hormone under resting conditions and then taken again after the young men took part in a stressful experiment that was designed to induce frustration.

While the average subject showed large increases in the amount of cortisol during the frustrating situation, cortisol levels went down in those with histories of severe antisocial behaviour.

The Cambridge team has suggested that the finding show antisocial behaviour may be more biologically-based than previously considered.

Lead researcher Dr Graeme Fairchild said: "If we can figure out precisely what underlies the inability to show a normal stress response, we may be able to design new treatments for severe behaviour problems. We may also be able to create targeted interventions for those at higher risk.”

The mental health charity SANE said the study may help antisocial behaviour to be viewed as a health issue, rather than a purely criminal one, though it acknowledged more work still has to be done.


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