News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.

Mission

The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

Exposure to Violence in Childhood is Associated with Higher Body Mass Index in Adolescence

By Holly C. Gooding, Carly Milliren, S. Bryn Austin, Margaret A. Sheridan, and Katie A. McLaughlin | Child Abuse & Neglect | August 21, 2015

Abstract:

To determine whether different types of childhood adversity are associated with body mass index (BMI) in adolescence, we studied 147 adolescents aged 13–17 years, 41% of whom reported exposure to at least one adversity (maltreatment, abuse, peer victimization, or witness to community or domestic violence). We examined associations between adversity type and age- and sex-specific BMI z-scores using linear regression and overweight and obese status using logistic regression. We adjusted for potential socio-demographic, behavioral, and psychological confounders and tested for effect modification by gender. Adolescents with a history of sexual abuse, emotional abuse, or peer victimization did not have significantly different BMI z-scores than those without exposure (p > 0.05 for all comparisons). BMI z-scores were higher in adolescents who had experienced physical abuse (β = 0.50, 95% CI 0.12–0.91) or witnessed domestic violence (β = 0.85, 95% CI 0.30–1.40). Participants who witnessed domestic violence had almost 6 times the odds of being overweight or obese (95% CI: 1.09–30.7), even after adjustment for potential confounders. No gender-by-adversity interactions were found. Exposure to violence in childhood is associated with higher adolescent BMI. This finding highlights the importance of screening for violence in pediatric practice and providing obesity prevention counseling for youth.

Read the full paper here.

The Crimes of Children

By Dylan Walsh | The Atlantic | August 10, 2015

Round Rock High School, just north of Austin in the Texas Hill Country, sprawls over 88 acres. It feels like a small liberal-arts college: There is a junior R.O.T.C. Training center. There are basketball courts, a gymnastics facility, a swimming pool, a football field, soccer fields, and a baseball diamond that, along its outfield fence, bears a faded sign commemorating the school’s 1997 state championship victory.

In January 2007, the principal called 17-year-old Jean Karlo Ponzanelli out of first-period history class and down to the office to join a waiting detective who took him to the local station for questioning. A girl he knew had run away from home and the police were curious about her whereabouts. They also suspected domestic abuse. (The girl declined a request for an interview, so her name has been withheld to protect her privacy.)

Ponzanelli had known this girl since the last day of 2005, when he attended a New Year’s Party at her home. “We go to the same high school,” he remembers her telling him in the kitchen.

“You’re in high school?” Ponzanelli asked.

Another partygoer asked her how old she was. “I’m 15,” she said.

After that, Ponzanelli and the girl drifted in the same suburban mix. He never ran into her in the hallways, but he’d often see her hanging out with his friends in the high-school parking lot at the end of the day. On occasion, she would call him and give a location and he would drive over. “Sometimes she had bruises on her face,” Ponzanelli said.

Ponzanelli said he couldn’t help the detective with her whereabouts that day. He hadn’t heard from the girl for some time. In the course of their meandering conversation, though, the Round Rock Police Department gathered another piece of information: Ponzanelli and the girl had had sex three times. On the first two occasions, the officer calculated, Ponzanelli had been 16 and she’d been 13. In Texas, sex with a minor younger than 14 is a first-degree felony. Continue reading »