In the past, researchers revealed teenagers who experienced unusual fatigue in the afternoon are more predisposed to anti-social behavior such as stealing, lying, fighting, and cheating. Nowadays, a joint team of researchers from the University of York in the United Kingdom and the University of Pennsylvania found evidence that such teens are 4.5 more likely to commit violent crimes 15 years later.
Adrian Raine, a researcher from the Richard Perry University said that this is the first study to link sleepiness in teenagers during the afternoon with their criminal records a decade and a half later. Together with Peter Venables, University of York emeritus psychology professor, Raine published their findings in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry at the beginning of 2017.
For 39 years, Adrian Raine had been collecting data on teenagers and violent behavior, as part of his Ph.D. However, he never analyzed in detail his work. It wasn’t until recently that he began to notice other cross-sectional studies that analyzed multiple behaviors at a given point in time that also connected violent acts with sleep issues in teens.
101 teenage boys participated in the study, aged 15, all of them studying at schools in northern England. The researchers would ask the participants at the start of each lab session, ranging from 1 to 3 p.m., to rate their degree of sleepiness from 1 to 7. The lowest point on the scale referred to “unusually alert”, with the highest point being “sleepy”. At the same time, Raine measured brain waves and reaction to stimuli. Basically, he asked the participants to wear headphones and listen to music while he was measuring the subjects’ sweat rates. This helped Raine understand the level of the teenagers’ brain-attentional function.
Using the results of the trials, he then gathered data on self-reported anti-social behavior from the participants. Furthermore, he also consulted with the teachers and the parents of the participants’. Interestingly, all accounts were remarkably on-point. Raine said it is highly unusual for teachers, students, and parents to see eye-to-eye on certain behavior patterns.
While not all sleepy students turned out to be violent offenders, 17 percent of the participants have been incarcerated for violent crimes or were being processed by authorities, before turning 29. However, it seemed that other factors were involved with the participants’ violent behavior later in life, such as poor socioeconomic status. Even so, if future studies confirm the researchers’ findings, it could be possible to lower crime rate by simply instructing sleepy teenagers to get more rest, say the researchers.
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