Does Candy Eating Predict Violence?

Written on Sunday, October 18th, 2009 at 4:41 pm by Christiane

According to a new British study, children who eat more candy at age 10 are more likely to be convicted for violence as adults. Where does this leave us parents? Should we switch our kids to a sugarless diet? Well, not so fast.

Let me tell you first a bit more about the study. Researchers from the University of Cardiff in England studied 17 000 children born in 1970. Their rationale for the study:

“Diet has been associated with behavioural problems, including aggression, but the long-term effects of childhood diet on adult violence have not been studied. We tested the hypothesis that excessive consumption of confectionery at age 10 years predicts convictions for violence in adulthood (age 34 years). Data from age 5, 10 and 34 years were used. Children who ate confectionery daily at age 10 years were significantly more likely to have been convicted for violence at age 34 years, a relationship that was robust when controlling for ecological and individual factors.“

Source: British Journal of Psychiatry, 2009 Oct;195(4):366-7; ; retrieved on 10/18/2009

So, there is a relationship (correlations) between eating daily sweets as a child and violent behavior as adult. However, it would be a common mistake now to infer that one event explains the other. As always with correlations, there could be other variables that explain both, chocolate and candy eating behavior and tendency to aggression.

Possible is that some parents always reward good behavior immediately with candy or cookies. Those kids then may learn to always expect immediate gratification instead of learning to wait for future rewards. Thus, the parents may have nurtured impulsive behavior.

As researcher, I would look into the possibility that temperament is the cause for both: children with impulsive temperaments will probably have self control issues with respect to chocolates and candies and as adults later also self control issues with respect to conflicts with others.

The researchers of the British study say that it’s too early to warn parents about a negative impact of sweets on their children’s behavior. Nevertheless, already previous studies have shown that better nutrition leads to better behavior, and this fact applies to children and adults. For example, a University of Southern California Study showed in 2004 that malnutrition in the first few years of life leads to antisocial and aggressive behavior throughout childhood and late adolescence. Read more

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