A new Florida State University study has found that adolescent boys who are hurt in just two physical fights suffer a loss in IQ that is roughly equivalent to missing an entire year of school. Girls experience a similar loss of IQ after only a single fighting-related injury.
The findings are significant because decreases in IQ are associated with lower educational achievement and occupational performance, mental disorders, behavioral problems and even longevity, the researchers said.
“It’s no surprise that being severely physically injured results in negative repercussions, but the extent to which such injuries affect intelligence was quite surprising,” said Joseph A. Schwartz, a doctoral student who conducted the study with Professor Kevin Beaver in FSU’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice.
The findings were published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The study is among the first to look at the long-term effects of fighting during adolescence, a critical period of neurological development.
Schwartz and Beaver used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health collected between 1994 and 2002 to examine whether serious fighting-related injuries resulted in significant decreases in IQ over a 5- to 6-year time span.
The research found boys experienced a higher number of injuries from fighting than girls; however, the consequences for girls were more severe, a fact the researchers attributed to physiological differences that give males an increased ability to withstand physical trauma.
The researchers found that each fighting-related injury resulted in a loss of 1.62 IQ points for boys, while girls lost an average of 3.02 IQ points, even after controlling for changes in socio-economic status, age and race for both genders. Previous studies have indicated that missing a single year of school is associated with a loss of 2 to 4 IQ points.
The impact on IQ may be even greater when considering only head injuries, the researchers said. The data they studied took into account all fighting-related physical injuries.
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