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Am J Psychiatry. 1997 Sep;154(9):1265-71.

Interaction between birth complications and early maternal rejection in predisposing individuals to adult violence: specificity to serious, early-onset violence.

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Department of Psychology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles 90089-1061, USA.



The authors previously reported that birth complications interact with early maternal rejection in predisposing individuals to violence at age 18 years. This study extended the follow-up period for violent offending from 18 years to 34 years, thus increasing the sample of violent offenders threefold and allowing more detailed analyses on onset and type of violence, the form of maternal rejection, and the effect of maternal mental illness.


Complications in the births of 4,269 males in Denmark, maternal rejection of these individuals before the age of 1 year, and their histories of criminal offenses at age 34 years were assessed.


The biosocial interaction previously observed held for violent but not nonviolent crime, was specific to more serious forms of violence and not threats of violence, held for early-onset but not late-onset violence, and was not accounted for by psychiatric illness in the mothers. Being reared in a public care institution in the first year of life and the mother's attempt to abort the fetus were the key aspects of maternal rejection that interacted with birth complications in predisposing a subject to violence.


These findings 1) indicate that the mechanisms underlying early-onset, serious violence differ from those for less serious, late-onset violence, 2) implicate very early factors in the development of violence, 3) highlight the potential importance of integrating psychosocial with biological factors in understanding and preventing violence, and 4) suggest that interventions to reduce birth complications and maternal rejection may help reduce violence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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