Could A Test Really Tell If 3-Year-Olds Will Grow Up To Be Criminals?


Researchers claim that a simple test on 3-year-olds will be able to tell if they are likely to grow up to become criminals in later life. The test, it is claimed, could also show if these children are likely to grow up to be dead-beat dads, claim welfare, or spend more time in hospital than others.

In fact, statistics show that 20% of the population are responsible for 81% of convictions, 77% of the absentee fathers, 33% of welfare claimants, and over half of all the nights spent in hospital. They were also more likely to smoke, be obese, and take prescription drugs – so why is this, and how does the test work?

Research was done on 1,000 people from New Zealand born between 1972 and 1973, testing their language abilities, motor skills, frustration levels and how impulsive they are in a 45-minute test as 3-year-olds.

Fast forward a few decades and the results showed that those who had performed badly in the tests were 26% more likely to fall into the most burdensome group in society.

Professor Terrie Moffitt, of King’s College, London, and Duke University, North Carolina, said:

“About 20 per cent of the population is using the lion’s share of a wide array of public services. The same people use most of the NHS [health services], the criminal courts, the claims for disabling injury, pharmaceutical prescriptions and social welfare benefits. If we stopped there, it might be fair to think these are lazy bums living off the taxpayer and exploiting the public purse. But we also went further to look back into the childhoods of the people in our study, and we found that this 20 per cent began their lives with mild problems with brain function and brain health when they were very small children, at the age of three. It gives you a feeling of compassion for these people, as opposed to a feeling of blame.”

The study could prove controversial for suggesting that a person’s path in life is set at such an early age, but it does show that if these at-risk children could be identified they could also be helped.

The test could highlight which children were likely to struggle later in life, as Professor Avshalom Caspi, of King’s College and Duke’s University, said:

“Essentially these children were functioning like a two-and-a-half-year-old, they were six months behind. For these individuals, life is really an uphill battle, opportunities are limited and mastering new skills is not easy. These early difficulties have a snowballing effect.”

The findings of the research are based on the Pareto Principle (also known as the 80-20 rule), which was formed by Italian engineer and social scientist Vilfredo Pareto a century ago. Pareto noted how 80% of the wealth is controlled by 20% of the population and found that the idea could be transferred to other areas of life.

The research has caused experts to believe that helping these most at-risk children could have a real positive effect, not just for them, but for society as a whole.

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