Biological make-up may hold key to criminal behavior

There is no such thing as natural-born killer but genetic make-up may make a person more likely to commit criminal or antisocial acts.
Evidence that genes play a part in social deviance is to be presented at three-day meeting in London on genes and crime, attended by psychologists, geneticists and lawyers from Europe and the United States.
Studies of twins who have been involved in crimes ranging from juvenile delinquency to serious offences have shown that identical twins, who share the same genes, are more similar in their antisocial behavior than fraternal twins. Studies of children who have been adopted show that their antisocial behavior is more like that of their genetic parents than their adoptive parents.
Professor Sir Michael Rutter, chairman of the conference and Head of the Department of Child Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, said their was no single gene for crime and that the finding of a genetic influence did not mean the environmental factors were unimportant. “That is not how genes operate. Rather they affect how people behave and how they respond to stress. Whether or not the results in crime will depend to a large extent on circumstances.”
Professor Rutter said there was ‘no one entity of crime’ and illegal acts ranged from highly principled civil disobedience to widespread antisocial behavior. The aim was to gain an understanding of how risk factors operated to help to prevent and remedy problems.
There were ‘huge individual differences’ in the law children responded to family discord and disruption, he said. “We don’t understand why”.
Dr. Greg Carey, of the Institute of Behavioral Genetics at the University of Colorado, said there was no answer to the origins of crime. “We are not insects with strong and rigid genetic programming. We are flexible.” Two people with the same genes will not turn out the same. There are very strong environmental factors. Dr. Carey said that criminal behavior could be influenced by interplay between genes that affected views of risk-taking, the perceived benefits of cheating and the fear associated with being caught.


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Biological make-up may hold key to criminal behavior