Causes and Impact of Traumatic Brain Injury

The role of brain injury in the development of delinquent behavior, and related outcomes, has not been extensively considered within criminology.  Previous studies have revealed that the prevalence of brain injury among those serving prison sentences is nearly six times that of the general population, fewer studies have attempted to examine whether brain injury plays a role in the development of criminal and antisocial behavior.  I am interested in the ways that brain injury may serve as a potential cause of cognitive and behavior problems, but also as a complicating factor in institutional settings and community corrections.  For example, my coauthors and I have examined the association between sustaining a brain injury in childhood and trajectories of aggressive and income offending across adolescence and into early adulthood.  Our findings pointed to short-term changes in self-control as a mechanism mediating the association between brain injury and delinquency.  In a follow up study, we attempted to better unpack this finding and identify the direction of associations involving brain injury, self-control, and delinquency.  The results indicated that brain injury typically preceded changes in self-control (and delinquency), providing evidence that factors other than lower levels of self-control (and greater levels of delinquency) contribute to sustaining a brain injury, but that experiencing a brain injury reduces subsequent levels of self-control and increases delinquency. My recent work has also been focused on the ways that brain injury may result in developmental trajectories of delinquency over major stages of the life course.  In another study, I provided a theoretical framework that outlines the ways that a brain injury may serve as an acquired source of neuropsychological deficits, potentially disrupting normative and expected patterns of desistance and promoting prolonged criminal desistance.