April Flowers for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
A simple saliva test could be an effective tool in predicting violent behavior, a new pilot study led by Cincinnati Children´s Hospital Medical Center indicates.
The study findings, published this week in Psychiatric Quarterly, suggest a link between aggression and the concentrations of certain hormones in saliva.
The research team collected saliva samples from 17 boys ages 7 to 9 who were admitted to the hospital for psychiatric care in order to identify which children were most likely to show aggression and violence.“¯Three samples were collected from each boy in one day shortly after admission. The samples were then tested for levels of three hormones: testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and cortisol. The team found a correlation between the levels of these hormones and the severity and frequency of aggression.
Drew Barzman, MD, a child and adolescent forensic psychiatrist at Cincinnati Children´s Hospital, and his team focused on a common problem in psychiatric units: the rapid, real-time assessment of violence among child and adolescent patients. Barzman sees other possible applications for a fast and accurate saliva test, as well as predicting violence.
“We believe salivary hormone testing has the potential to help doctors monitor which treatments are working best for their patients,” said Barzman. “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 behavior in child psychiatric units. Eventually, we hope this testing might also provide a tool to help improve safety in schools.”
The saliva test was used in conjunction with other aggressive behavior tools, such as the Brief Rating of Aggression by Children and Adolescents (BRACHA) questionnaire. BRACHA is an assessment tool developed by Barzman’s team to predict violence and aggression in the hospital.
“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 behavior is our ultimate goal.”