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Sweets and violence - The Ex-Communicator

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October 1st, 2009


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04:48 pm - Sweets and violence
Cardiff University study involving 17,500 people found that 10-year-olds who ate sweets every day were significantly more likely to have a violence conviction by age 34
This link between confectionery consumption and later aggression remained even after controlling for other factors such as parenting behaviour, the area where the child lived, not having educational qualifications after the age of 16 and whether they had access to a car when they were 34.
Let us say that this is a true correlation. What might the explanation be? The researchers think it might be caused by a chemical effect of sweets, such as addiction to additives. That seems unlikely to me. They also suggest that giving treats to kids means they don't learn to delay gratification
"Our favoured explanation is that giving children sweets and chocolate regularly may stop them learning how to wait to obtain something they want. Not being able to defer gratification may push them towards more impulsive behaviour, which is strongly associated with delinquency."
That sounds like a lot of hooey. I tried to give my kids treats (not sweets) whenever I could, I didn't make them wait. There's enough frustration in everyday life without adding to it.

Perhaps difficult kids get given sweets a lot to keep them quiet? Parents who don't really know what they are doing give out more sweets because they don't have many other strategies? The social class that eats most sweets is the lower working class, and they are most vulnerable to conviction? Sweet eating is associated with other nutritional deficiencies?

I think the most likely explanation is that people who don't have much fun in their lives, or are most subject to anxiety, are more likely to use sweets to comfort themselves and their children.

(10 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:watervole
Date:October 1st, 2009 04:30 pm (UTC)
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I suspect it may be a metabolic effect. We know sugar has many impacts on the body.

Swings in blood sugar cause mood swings - that might link to aggression.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 1st, 2009 05:21 pm (UTC)
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That's one of the favoured explanations of the researchers, for sure. I don't know. The problem I feel is that eating a lot of sugar is associated with a lot of other life choices, and it's hard to distinguish their effects.
[User Picture]
From:watervole
Date:October 1st, 2009 05:36 pm (UTC)
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Well, you did say that the study had controlled for things like style of parenting.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 1st, 2009 05:58 pm (UTC)
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Yes, true. I wonder how well you can control for something with so many variables. Anyway, food for thought (ahem)
[User Picture]
From:lexica510
Date:October 1st, 2009 04:56 pm (UTC)
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My hunch is that high consumption of sweets at age 10 is probably associated with high consumption of sweets leading up to age 10, and with poor early nutrition in general.

ozarque (aka author & linguist Suzette Haden Elgin) has written about her concerns about the long-term effects of poor childhood nutrition (which, living in the Ozarks, she sees on an ongoing basis) in these related posts.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 1st, 2009 05:23 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for that link. I do read ozarque's blog regularly, but that post must have been one of those times I was very busy, because I haven't read that (NB now I look, it was probably posted before I started reading it). It's made me think about my own upbringing and nutrition. I'll probably blog about that.

Edited at 2009-10-01 05:24 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:lamentables
Date:October 1st, 2009 06:31 pm (UTC)
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I'm trying to fathom the report that the BBC article is based on. It's a short report, rather than a paper, which I think is making it harder to follow.
I do note that the study was based on babies born in a particular week in April 1970 and that the report says "Since 1970 there have been seven data collections designed to monitor respondents’ health, education, social and economic circumstances. These additional waves took place when respondents
were aged 5, 10, 16, 26, 30, 34 and 42 years." Which indicates some rather interesting maths. Or time travel.
They report that 69% of violent and 42% of non-violent respondents ate sweets almost every day (they didn't distinguish levels of consumption, just 'every day': yes or no). They note that statistical analysis of rare events is problematic and that violence is a rare event at 0.47%. My A-level stats is rusty and probably out of date, so I'm struggling a little with their table of results.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 1st, 2009 06:41 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for digging down which I didn't bother to do. The violence level is very low isn't it? The difference is striking, but I must say you make me think the 'controlling for other factors' might be tougher than I thought.
[User Picture]
From:archbishopm
Date:October 2nd, 2009 01:47 am (UTC)
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The social class that eats most sweets is the lower working class, and they are most vulnerable to conviction?

Crazy talk. Next you'll be trying to tell me injuns don't have a alcoholism gene.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 2nd, 2009 09:40 am (UTC)
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"The rich man is invisible
In the crowd of his gay society;
But the poor man's delight
Is a sore in our sight,
And a stench in the nose of piety."

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