Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Clinic Notes: Cruelty Toward Animals

In The Dragons of Eden, Carl Sagan presented the thesis that the cortex evolved to repress and control our lower reptilian brain, making civilized human behavior possible. I don’t know it this is true, but I do know that damage to the cortex that causes disinhibition is a significant clinical problem in children I see in my clinic, especially when aggression toward pets, care givers, and other kids is involved.
Aggressive behavior is common in kids with various neuropsychological disorders. Nonverbal kids learn to use aggression as a way to communicate. Neurological damage to the cortex of the brain, caused by trauma or drugs taken by the mother while she is pregnant, can cause cortical disinhibition in the child and further increase the level of aggression. Children with neuropsychological disorders, as well as those without, also learn violent, abusive behavior from adult role models, video games, and the media.
Twenty-five percent of men imprisoned for violent crimes had a history of cruelty toward animals in their childhood. A comparison sample of men convicted for nonviolent crimes had no history of cruelty toward animals. Aggressive women prisoners show a similar history. Cruelty toward animals is also associated with child abuse. Apparently, the abused child takes out his frustration on family pets.
See "Just Another Serial Killer Thriller" at http://www.aba4autism.com for the rest of this case history

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