Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Genes influence criminal behavior, research suggests

Date:
January 26, 2012
Source:
University of Texas at Dallas
Summary:
Your genes could be a strong predictor of whether you stray into a life of crime, according to a new research paper. The study focused on whether genes are likely to cause a person to become a life-course persistent offender, which is characterized by antisocial behavior during childhood that can later progress to violent or serious criminal acts later in life.

Genes Show Connection to Crime: UT Dallas criminologist Dr. J.C. Barnes has researched connections between genes and an individual’s propensity for crime. Shown is the percentage that genetic factors were found to have influenced whether people became “life course persistent” offenders, “adolescent-limited” offenders, or those who never engaged in deviant behaviors, called “abstainers.”

Your genes could be a strong predictor of whether you stray into a life of crime, according to a research paper co-written by UT Dallas criminologist Dr. J.C. Barnes.

The study's findings were detailed in a recent issue of Criminology. The paper was written with Dr. Kevin M. Beaver from Florida State University and Dr. Brian B. Boutwell at Sam Houston State University.

The study focused on whether genes are likely to cause a person to become a life-course persistent offender, which is characterized by antisocial behavior during childhood that can later progress to violent or serious criminal acts later in life.

The framework for the research was based on the developmental taxonomy of anti-social behavior, a theory derived by Dr. Terri Moffitt, who identified three groups, or pathways, found in the population: life-course persistent offenders, adolescent-limited offenders and abstainers. Moffitt suggested that environmental, biological and, perhaps, genetic factors could cause a person to fall into one of the paths.

"That was the motivation for this paper. No one had actually considered the possibility that genetic factors could be a strong predictor of which path you end up on," said Barnes, who is an assistant professor of criminology in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences at UT Dallas. "In her (Moffitt's) theory, she seems to highlight and suggest that genetic factors will play a larger role for the life-course persistent offender pathway as compared to the adolescence-limited pathway."

Adolescent-limited offenders exhibit behaviors such as alcohol and drug use and minor property crime during adolescence. Abstainers represent a smaller number of people who don't engage in any deviant behavior.

Barnes and his co-researchers relied on data from 4,000 people drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to identify how people fell into each of the three groups. The researchers then compared the information using what is known as the twin methodology, a study design that analyzed to what extent genetic and environmental factors influenced a trait.

"The overarching conclusions were that genetic influences in life-course persistent offending were larger than environmental influences," he said. "For abstainers, it was roughly an equal split: genetic factors played a large role and so too did the environment. For adolescent-limited offenders, the environment appeared to be most important."

The analysis doesn't identify the specific genes that underlie the different pathways, which Barnes said would be an interesting area for further research.

"If we're showing that genes have an overwhelming influence on who gets put onto the life-course persistent pathway, then that would suggest we need to know which genes are involved and at the same time, how they're interacting with the environment so we can tailor interventions," he said.

Barnes said there is no gene for criminal behavior. He said crime is a learned behavior.

"But there are likely to be hundreds, if not thousands, of genes that will incrementally increase your likelihood of being involved in a crime even if it only ratchets that probability by 1 percent," he said. "It still is a genetic effect. And it's still important."

The link between genes and crime is a divisive issue in the criminology discipline, which has primarily focused on environmental and social factors that cause or influence deviant behavior.

"Honestly, I hope people when they read this, take issue and start to debate it and raise criticisms because that means people are considering it and people are thinking about it," Barnes said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Texas at Dallas. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J.C. Barnes, Kevin M. Beaver, Brian B. Boutwell. Examining the Genetic Underpinnings to Moffitt's Developmental Taxonomy: A Behavior Genetic Analysis. Criminology, 2011; 49 (4): 923 DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2011.00243.x

Cite This Page:

University of Texas at Dallas. "Genes influence criminal behavior, research suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120125151841.htm>.
University of Texas at Dallas. (2012, January 26). Genes influence criminal behavior, research suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120125151841.htm
University of Texas at Dallas. "Genes influence criminal behavior, research suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120125151841.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Orthodontist Mom Jennifer Salzer on the Best Time for Braces

Orthodontist Mom Jennifer Salzer on the Best Time for Braces

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Is your child ready? Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.S. Issues Ebola Travel Restrictions, Are Visa Bans Next?

U.S. Issues Ebola Travel Restrictions, Are Visa Bans Next?

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) Now that the U.S. is restricting travel from West Africa, some are dropping questions about a travel ban and instead asking about visa bans. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
US to Track Everyone Coming from Ebola Nations

US to Track Everyone Coming from Ebola Nations

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) Stepping up their vigilance against Ebola, federal authorities said Wednesday that everyone traveling into the US from Ebola-stricken nations will be monitored for symptoms for 21 days. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctors Help Paralysed Man Walk Again, Patient in Disbelief

Doctors Help Paralysed Man Walk Again, Patient in Disbelief

AFP (Oct. 22, 2014) Polish doctors describe how they helped a paralysed man walk again, with the patient in disbelief at the return of sensation to his legs. Duration: 1:04 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins