Violence and touch deprivation in adolescents.
Adolescence. 2002;37(148):735-49. PMID: 12564826
Touch Research Institutes, University of Miami School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics (D-820), P.O. Box 016820, Miami, Florida 33101, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
The increasing incidence of violence among children and adolescents highlights the importance of identifying at-risk profiles as well as assessing interventions for preventing violence. Empirical research has suggested behavioral, central nervous system, and neurotransmitter/neurohormone dysregulation in violent individuals, including (1) an underaroused central nervous system characterized by right frontal electroencephalogram (EEG) hypoactivation, and (2) a neurotransmitter/neurohormone profile of lower norepinephrine, serotonin, and cortisol, and elevated dopamine and testosterone. The literature also suggests a disproportionate incidence of physical abuse and neglect or the lack of positive physical contact in violent individuals. In the studies we have conducted to date, there has been a relatively high incidence of anger and aggression in high school samples, even those that were relatively advantaged, as well as high levels of depression (one standard deviation above the mean), suggesting significant disturbance in these youth. Adolescents with these profiles also had less optimal relationships with their families, used illicit drugs more frequently, had inferior academic performance, and had higher depression scores. In our cross-cultural comparisons, preschoolers and adolescents were less physically affectionate and more aggressive in the United States versus France. Further, the U.S. youth received less physical affection as preschoolers, and as adolescents they engaged in more self-stimulating behaviors, perhaps to compensate for receiving less physical affection from their parents and peers. This supports the notion that less physical affection (or more physical neglect) can contribute to greater aggression. Massage therapy has been effective with violent adolescents, perhaps because the physical stimulation reduced their dopamine levels and increased their serotonin levels. Their aggressive behavior decreased and their empathetic behavior increased. These preliminary data need to be replicated in a larger sample with a more comprehensive set of measures in the context of identifying a diagnostic profile.