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Wild Teen Roundup

August 3, 2007

A new skin test could predict which kids are most at risk for developing behavioral problems.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Why good kids go bad. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

It’s well known that a stressful family life can cause some adolescents to develop volatile personalities and behavioral problems. Now a study in the journal Psychological Science reports that a simple test can predict which kids are most at risk for these problems. The researchers gave 138 elementary school children a skin conductance response test. The test indicates which children have a highly reactive autonomic nervous system—that’s the system that regulates heart rate and respiration. Over the next six years, the researchers found that kids who scored high on this skin test and also had difficult family lives were by far the most likely to have behavioral problems.

In other teen behavior news, Penn State researchers divided up 111 kids age 8 to 13 based on whether they were morning people or night owls. They then assessed the kids for behavioral problems. They found that night owl boys were more likely to exhibit rule-breaking and attention problems. Night owl girls showed a higher level of relational aggression—hurting other kids’ feelings. The researchers say encouraging early bedtimes could help avoid behavioral problems in later years. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.