wild toddler: future criminal?

This morning, via The University of Pennsylvania, something new for us to worry about: toddlers who are afraid of nothing are more likely to be wearing orange jumpsuits as grownups.

According to the results of this study, published in HealthDay, “poor fear conditioning” in a small child may be due to a dysfunction of the amygdala in the brain, which, if left untreated, can lead “to an inherent intrepidness and disregard for the law.”

I had never considered that my boys’ chandelier-swinging might be the result of a brain dysfunction. I just figured, when Seamus had stitches four times before his fourth birthday, that he was being a typical boy. This study makes total sense, when I stop and think about it: of course fearless kids become fearless adults. I just never knew fearlessness was something, in itself, for me to fear.

Parents should “enhance the amygdala,” this study recommends, with nutrition, exercise, and cognitive stimulation. No need for us to, you know, worry needlessly. As psychiatrist Dr. Elissa P. Benedek pointed out:

Addressing parental concerns, Benedek added: “Don’t be discouraged if your child has early brain dysfunction. It doesn’t mean that he or she is going to grow up and be a criminal.”

Thanks, Dr. Benedek, for trying to make us feel better. But I’m a little stuck on the “early brain dysfunction” part. Off to enhance some amygdalae.