Saliva test can predict aggression risk in boys

 A simple saliva test could be an effective tool in predicting violent behaviour in boys, a new study suggests.

The study, led by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center suggests a link between salivary concentrations of certain hormones and aggression.

Researchers, led by psychiatrist Drew Barzman collected saliva samples from 17 boys aged 7-9 years admitted to the hospital for psychiatric care to identify which children were most likely to show aggression and violence.

The samples were tested for levels of three hormones: testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and cortisol. The severity and frequency of aggression correlated with the levels of these hormones.

Barzman’s team focused on rapid, real-time assessment of violence among child and adolescent inpatients, a common problem in psychiatric units. But, he believes a fast and accurate saliva test could eventually have several other applications.

“We believe salivary hormone testing has the potential to help doctors monitor which treatments are working best for their patients,” Barzman said in a statement.

“And because mental health professionals are far more likely to be assaulted on the job than the average worker, it could offer a quick way to anticipate violent behaviour in child psychiatric units. Eventually, we hope this testing might also provide a tool to help improve safety in schools,” he said.

“This study sample, while small, gives us the data we need to move forward,” added Barzman.

“We have more studies planned before we can reach a definitive conclusion, but developing a new tool to help us anticipate violent behaviour is our ultimate goal,” said Barzman.

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