Improving child behavior through omega-3 supplementation could have long-term benefits to the family system

 
 
 

On one hand, existing knowledge about the relationship between parents and child behavior suggests that improving child behavior could improve parent behavior, on the other hand, omega-3 supplementation has been found to reduce externalizing behavior in children. On this basis, a group of researchers have studied whether omega-3 supplementation in children with externalizing behavior could reduce domestic (partner) violence between their parents.

To begin with, what do we mean by externalizing behavior? A child who exhibits externalizing behaviors engages in behaviors that harm others: physical aggression, verbal bullying, defiance, theft and vandalism, among other. Possible reasons are diverse: he/she may have lost a parent or experienced a divorce, parental abandonment or other traumatic experience; there is also the possibility that he/she have learning difficulties and acts out to deflect attention from this fact. Externalizing behaviors can not only lead children and adolescents into difficult situations but may also have serious consequences in their lives.

As we said above, omega-3 supplementation has been found to reduce externalizing behavior in children. But that is not all: the outcomes of the abovementioned study have shown that, after child supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids, improvements in child externalizing behavior correlates with improvements in adult psychological aggression (adults which have not receive suplements).

This finding may seem surprising but, anycase, are very interesting. This is the first study to show that omega-3 supplementation in children can reduce inter-partner psychological aggression among their “adult caregivers” (not receiving supplements), suggesting that improving child behavior through omega-3 supplementation could have long-term benefits to the family system.

Bibliography: 

Portnoy J, Raine A, Liu J, Hibbeln JR. Reductions of intimate partner violence resulting from supplementing children with omega-3 fatty acids: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, stratified, parallel-group trial. Aggress Behav. 2018 May 20. [Epub ahead of print]

Liu J. Childhood Externalizing behavior: Theory and Implications. J Child Adolesc Psychiatr Nurs. 2004;17(3):93-103.