It is widely claimed that children who injure or kill animals as children are more likely to exhibit violent behavior as adults, committing domestic violence or murder. A site dedicated to discussing "killer kids" describes "cruelty to animals & smaller children" as one of the "warning signs of kids who kill".
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who actually cite some sources, states that this goes both ways:
Acts of cruelty to animals are not mere indications of a minor personality flaw in the abuser; they are symptomatic of a deep mental disturbance. Research in psychology and criminology shows that people who commit acts of cruelty to animals don’t stop there—many of them move on to their fellow humans. “Murderers ... very often start out by killing and torturing animals as kids,” says Robert K. Ressler, who developed profiles of serial killers for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Studies have shown that violent and aggressive criminals are more likely to have abused animals as children than criminals who are considered non-aggressive. A survey of psychiatric patients who had repeatedly tortured dogs and cats found that all of them had high levels of aggression toward people as well. According to a New South Wales newspaper, a police study in Australia revealed that “100 percent of sexual homicide offenders examined had a history of animal cruelty.” To researchers, a fascination with cruelty to animals is a red flag in the backgrounds of serial killers and rapists. According to the FBI’s Ressler, “These are the kids who never learned it’s wrong to poke out a puppy’s eyes.”
Apparently, even as adults such individuals are still violent toward animals.
I know I learned to hunt and fish when I was young, and lots of other kids do too. It seems unlikely that all of us will turn out violent someday. Perhaps there's something about the demographic that learns to do such things at a young age that predisposes them toward violence, or maybe individuals making this claim have a narrower definition of violence than I.
At any rate, is there any evidence of a correlation between childhood violence toward animals and violent behavior as an adult (or vice versa)?