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Omega-3 (ω-3) and social skills interventions for reactive aggression and childhood externalizing behavior problems: a randomized, stratified, double-blind, placebo-controlled, factorial trial

  • Adrian Raine (a1), Rebecca P. Ang (a2), Olivia Choy (a3), Joseph R. Hibbeln (a4), Ringo M-H. Ho (a3), Choon Guan Lim (a5), Nikki S. J. Lim-Ashworth (a5), Shichun Ling (a6), Jean C. J. Liu (a7), Yoon Phaik Ooi (a5) (a8), Yi Ren Tan (a5) and Daniel S. S. Fung (a5)...
Abstract
Background

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.

Methods

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.

Results

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.

Conclusions

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.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Author for correspondence: Adrian Raine, E-mail: araine@sas.upenn.edu
Footnotes
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Clinical Trial registration: ‘Supplements and Social Skills Intervention Study (SASSI)’. ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00819429 https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00819429?term=daniel+fung&rank=4

Footnotes
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