The genetics of criminal behavior

In any criminal matter where charges are filed, factors related to evidence, motive and intent must be thoroughly investigated and considered. Professionals like criminologists and psychologists are routinely called upon to investigate criminal activities to determine why an individual may have committed a crime and how to prevent similar crimes from occurring. However, what if some individuals are genetically predisposed to engage in criminal activities?

A recent study conducted by Swedish researchers looked at the role genetics may play in predisposing some individuals to engage in violent criminal acts. The study's findings are noteworthy as researchers identified two distinct genes that appear to be linked to an increased penchant for engagement in violent behavior.

For the study, researchers examined 753 individuals who were serving time in Finnish prisons for both violent and nonviolent offenses. DNA samples from both groups of incarcerated individuals were then compared against those of 2,000 regular Finnish citizens.

Upon examining and comparing the DNA samples, researchers found that mutations in two genes, MAOA and CDH13, were "strongly linked with 'extremely violent' crime." In fact, researchers believe that individuals who carry these genetic mutations are "13 times more likely to commit a violent crime."

So are individuals who have these genetic mutations powerless and destined to engage in a life of violent criminal activity? Researchers say no, but do caution that individuals with these genetic mutations may be more prone to engage in violent behaviors when under the influence of alcohol or certain drugs or exposed to certain environmental factors .

Researchers believe that the discovery and identification of these genes may be useful in helping identify and develop more effective treatments and alternative sentencing options for violent offenders.

Source: HealthDay, "Is Violent Crime in Some People's Genes?," Alan Mozes, Oct. 28, 2014

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