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Brain test can spot future criminals at three

Tests can predict whether children as young as three will grow up to be criminals, claim a disproportionate amount of benefits or be obese, researches have found in a 35-year study.

Scientists from King's College London believe society could intervene to give the children better chances after studying a group of more than 1,000 people until they were 38.

They found a fifth of a study group, all born in Dunedin, New Zealand, were responsible for 81% of criminal convictions, 66% of welfare benefits and 57% spending nights in hospital.

Furthermore, the researchers found that this group could be accurately predicted with a 45-minute "brain health" test at the age of three.

Professor Avshalom Caspi from the university's social genetic and developmental psychiatry department said: "There is a really powerful connection from children's early beginnings to where they end up.

"The purpose of this was not to use these data to complicate children's lives any further. It's to say these children - all children - need a lot of resources, and helping them could yield a remarkable return on investment when they grow up."

Brain health was determined by assessing intelligence, receptive language and motor skills.

Deprivation was also found to be a major predictor of this group in the study by the London researchers and colleagues from Duke University in North Carolina and the University of Otago in New Zealand.

The high-cost group also smoked 54% of cigarettes, accounted for 78% of prescriptions and 36% of injury insurance claims, according to the research published in journal Nature Human Behaviour.

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