Penn Prof’s Study: Sleepy Teens More Likely to Become Criminals

Penn professor Adrian Raine’s new study is the first to link teenage sleepiness to adult crime.

Teenagers who are drowsy during the day are more likely to have a criminal record later in life, according to a new study from a Penn professor.

Adrian Raine, a professor of criminology, psychiatry, and psychology, writes in a new paper that teens who were frequently drowsy were 4.5 times as likely to have a criminal record by age 29.

“The simple finding is that kids who are drowsy during the day are more anti-social,” he tells Penn’s website. “What’s more interesting, however, is if we follow these kids for nine years, we find that sleepy teenagers are more likely to have a criminal record.”

The study began with a question Raine asked while doing his dissertation work under Peter Venables, a co-author on the paper. Back then, Raine studied the sleep habits of 101 15-year-old boys in England. Nine years later, he searched a criminal records database for the names of those 101 boys.

After taking into account socioeconomic status and other factors, he realized that a lack of sleep as a teen does correlate with a criminal record as an adult. “Is it the case that low social class and early social adversity results in daytime drowsiness, which results in inattention or brain dysfunction, which results 14 years later in crime? The answer is yes,’” he says. “Think of a flow diagram from A to B to C to D. Think of a chain. There is a significant link.”

Raine tells Penn’s website that his study doesn’t mean every sleepy teen will grow up to be the Scranton Strangler. But his study is the first to demonstration a connection between sleepiness as a teenager and crime in adulthood. He’s working on a larger study, involving 1,795 children, and says early data appears to offer similar results as his already-published study.

In 2012, our own Sandy Hingston wrote about Raine’s study of 1,795 children, as well as his work as a criminologist.