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Vitamin D insufficiency and child antisocial behavior are public health concerns. It is unknown whether vitamin D plays a role in antisocial outcomes. This study examines whether higher levels of vitamin D can act as a protective factor against antisocial behavior for children who are exposed to early social adversity.
In a community sample of 300 children aged 11–12 years (151 females, 149 males), serum concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] were assessed alongside early social adversity, and both parent and child-reported antisocial behavior.
Vitamin D moderated the association between early social adversity and multiple antisocial outcomes. Higher social adversity was associated with greater antisocial behavior among vitamin D-insufficient [25(OH)D < 30 ng/mL], but not vitamin D-sufficient children [25(OH)D ⩾ 30 ng/mL], after adjusting for other variables. Results from child reports of antisocial behavior were replicated with parent reports, providing support for the robustness of the findings. At serum 25(OH)D concentrations above 27.16–30.69 ng/mL (close to 30 ng/mL, the recommended optimal vitamin D level for pediatric populations), the effect of social adversity on antisocial behavior outcomes was nullified.
To our knowledge, this study is the first to document that a nutritional factor, vitamin D, can potentially confer resilience to antisocial behavior. Our findings in a pediatric population suggest a possible role of vitamin D supplementation in interventions to reduce antisocial behavior, which may be further investigated in future randomized controlled trials.
While studies suggest that nutritional supplementation may reduce aggressive behavior in children, few have examined their effects on specific forms of aggression. This study tests the primary hypothesis that omega-3 (ω-3), both alone and in conjunction with social skills training, will have particular post-treatment efficacy for reducing childhood reactive aggression relative to baseline.
In this randomized, double-blind, stratified, placebo-controlled, factorial trial, a clinical sample of 282 children with externalizing behavior aged 7–16 years was randomized into ω-3 only, social skills only, ω-3 + social skills, and placebo control groups. Treatment duration was 6 months. The primary outcome measure was reactive aggression collected at 0, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months, with antisocial behavior as a secondary outcome.
Children in the ω-3-only group showed a short-term reduction (at 3 and 6 months) in self-report reactive aggression, and also a short-term reduction in overall antisocial behavior. Sensitivity analyses and a robustness check replicated significant interaction effects. Effect sizes (d) were small, ranging from 0.17 to 0.31.
Findings provide some initial support for the efficacy of ω-3 in reducing reactive aggression over and above standard care (medication and parent training), but yield only preliminary and limited support for the efficacy of ω-3 in reducing overall externalizing behavior in children. Future studies could test further whether ω-3 shows promise in reducing more reactive, impulsive forms of aggression.
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