They say criminals are made, not born, but one study claims to be able to predict future criminal activity in children as young as three. The prediction is derived from a 45-minute brain test, and those involved in the study hope that one day it may be used to identify at-risk children so they can receive the early interventions they need.

In a 35-year study conducted on nearly 1,000 individuals, researchers found that their brain test predicted the future criminal activity of the participants with surprising accuracy. For example, although only one-fifth of participants were classified “at-risk” by the test, this group was responsible for 81 percent of the criminal convictions, 66 percent of welfare benefits, 75 percent of drug prescriptions, and smoked more than half the cigarettes, Sky News reported. This group also accounted for 40 percent of obese individuals and 77 percent of children brought up without a father.

Read: Inside The Criminal Mind

The 45-minute test involved assessing the children’s intelligence, receptive language, and overall motor skills. The children were all born in Dunedin, New Zealand and were followed throughout their lives until they were 38 years old. According to the researchers involved, it’s important to note that the test is not designed to weed out future criminals. Rather, the team hopes it will allow psychologists to provide early intervention to those who need it the most.

“The purpose of this was not to use these data to complicate children's lives any further,” King's College Professor Avshalom Caspi told Sky News."It's to say these children - all children - need a lot of resources, and helping them could yield a remarkable return on investment when they grow up."

While it’s not entirely clear what makes some individuals grow up to follow a life of crime, some research has suggested that early childhood abuse can be a predictor for bad decisions made later in life. For example, a 2012 study found that even one instance of child abuse increased the risk of poorer outcomes for a child during their teen years and as adults by 20 to 50 percent when compared to children who were not abused.

Source: Caspi A, Houts RM, Belsky DW, et al. Childhood forecasting of a small segment of the population with large economic burden. Nature Human Behavior . 2016

See Also:

Genetics And Criminal Behavior Still Have Complicated Relationship, As Courts Question Evidence

Are Genetics Responsible For Criminal Behavior?