A simple saliva test could be an effective method in predicting aggressive behavior in boys, a new study suggests.

The findings, published in the journal Psychiatric Quarterly, was led by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and reveal a direct link between salivary concentrations of certain hormones and aggression.

A group of researchers led by Drew Barzman, MD, a child and adolescent forensic psychiatrist at Cincinnati Children’s, gathered saliva samples from 17 young boys aged 7 to 9 years who were admitted to the hospital for psychiatric care. They used these samples to measure which kids were the most likely to exhibit aggression and violence.

Samples were gathered three times in one day immediately after admission to the hospital. Then the samples were analyzed for levels of three hormones:

The abundance and level of aggression was associated with the strength of these hormones.

The researchers were looking for a rapid test that could reveal aggressive tendencies in pediatric patients – a common issue in psychiatric units. Barzman thinks a fast and authentic saliva test could have have several other uses.

Barzman explains:

“We believe salivary hormone testing has the potential to help doctors monitor which treatments are working best for their patients. And because mental health professionals are far more likely to be assaulted on the job than the average worker, it could offer a quick way to anticipate violent behavior in child psychiatric units. Eventually, we hope this testing might also provide a tool to help improve safety in schools.”

The current study used the saliva test together with other aggressive behavior tools, such as the Brief Rating of Aggression by Children and Adolescents (BRACHA) survey – a tool designed by Barzman and his team to anticipate violence and aggression in the hospital.

The authors note that despite the small size of this study, the data is significant and gives them the chance to advance. More studies are needed before a final conclusion can be made, but developing a new tool to predict violent behavior is the main goal.

Earlier this year, a saliva test was developed to be used to detect Parkinson’s Disease and may soon be a simple way to diagnosis the illness.

Written by Kelly Fitzgerald