Science can tell if bad boys will become outlaws…

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

corner punishment
University of Michigan researchers say time outs are more effective than physical punishments.

Almost all of us can remember that bad boy from kindergarten who was put on time out at least twice a day. Now, researchers from the University of Michigan (U-M) have discovered a way to distinguish boys who are just acting up… from those who will become criminals as adults!

Apparently, while genes do play a role in how people react in certain situations, their environments also contribute to maintaining those bad habits. For example, U-M researchers completed a study involving people with overactive amygdalas – a part of the brain linked with processing strong emotions such as fear and anxiety. It’s also been linked to aggressive and impulsive behaviors. While past research found that these individuals tend to have powerful anxious reactions to situations they consider threatening, the U-M scientists discovered another piece of the puzzle.

“Our study found that this tendency is moderated by a person’s environment, including the social support they get,” said Luke Hyde, a U-M psychologist who is studying the development and treatment of antisocial behavior. “If they’re not getting support from family, friends, neighbors or professionals, then the link between the amygdala and anxious behavior is much stronger.”

The scientists say this study – along with results from their other studies – provide parents with a way to correct bad behavior in kids from a young age so they don’t become worse over time. Some simple steps to take include giving rewards for good behavior and opting for timeouts instead of physical punishment when they misbehave. “Parents need to know that intervention works, especially if it’s done early,” Hyde said.

Featured image courtesy of mdanys on Flickr. Image of time out courtesy of Ken Wilcox on Flickr.