The current study examines whether head injuries suffered earlier in the life course are associated with subsequent changes in self-control and delinquency.
Latent growth curve models and path analysis are used to analyze the developmental trajectories of self-control and delinquency as well as the potential associations between head injury, self-control, and delinquency among a sample of youth offenders from the pathways to desistance study.
The results revealed significant associations between head injuries and short-term changes in self-control and subsequent increases in aggressive delinquency. Indirect pathway models revealed that lower levels of self-control significantly mediated the association between head injuries and starting levels in aggressive delinquency. The association between head injuries and changes in aggressive delinquency was also significantly mediated by self-control, but the association was negative, indicating that youth who previously suffered head injuries desisted from aggressive delinquency at a slightly faster rate than their noninjured peers. Additional analyses revealed that, despite accelerated rates of decline, injured youth engaged in significantly higher levels of aggressive delinquency throughout the entire observation period.
Head injuries represent one environmental factor that may influence delinquent behaviors through their influence on biological and developmental processes.