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kottke.org posts about children

Candy-craving criminals

posted by Ainsley Drew   Oct 06, 2009

Just in time for Halloween: a new study theorizes that eating too many Pez will land children in the pen. Researchers believe that using candy as a reward for a chore such as homework drives children to have difficulty handling anything but immediate gratification. The dopamine release that is caused by consuming sugar, and the inherent “addiction” that it causes, can lead to impulsive behavior when treats are withheld from kids. It’s the inability to successfully cope with delayed gratification that has doctors concerned, since rash behavior in children can be linked to criminal acts and violence in adults. The British study, which followed 17,000 children over four decades, found that, by the age of 34, 69% of daily candy eaters were apprehended for violent acts. Perhaps it’s the prevalence of penny candies that leads people to the penitentiary.

Update: It’s all in the subtleties. The article reads:

“The October 2009 study revealed that 69 per cent of those with a criminal record of violence consumed candy daily as children.”

This means that it can be inferred that those who have committed crime had sweet teeth as kids, but not that children who eat candy every day will therefore be predisposed to criminal behavior. Moreover, there are so many variables and unobserved factors that if you eliminated the sugary rewards, it wouldn’t necessarily mean a correlated drop in crime. It isn’t the candy that’s causing the trouble, it’s just that trouble-making and candy seem to be bedfellows. So much for trick or treat. (thx, neil and scott)