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The paper reviews previous published studies on genetics and relationships to criminal behavior. Previous published articles have discovered DNA research and genetic relationships that are associated with criminal acts.
Research on anti-social and aggressive behavior are evaluated. Journal articles on serotonin and dopamine are reviewed for associations with criminal activity. The published articles compares reserach on DNA and predictability to participate in criminal behavior. Additionally, an analysis of DNA-enzymes, androgen receptors (AR) and monoamine oxidase (MAOA) are compared for behavioral associations with criminal activity. This paper looks at whether criminals are predestined to commit criminal acts by responding to the following question: How Genes are linked to criminal behavior?
A summary statement concludes the research.
Biological Basis for Criminal Behavior
In a democratic society, adults are viewed as moral agents who are responsible for their acts. A crime is a violation of a widely agreed upon set of rules by an individual presumed to understand that he is committing the offence (Elger 2005).
Genetic theories of the origins of criminal behavior have
been a source of contention for over a century. Genetic theories of criminality have been especially controversial within the field of criminology because of the eugenic policies that they inspired (Morely and Hall, 2002).
Sequencing of the human genome has created a renewed interest in the contribution of genetics to socially disapproved behavior such as addiction, mental disorders and criminal behavior. Both the media and the public have shown significant interest in genes and their relationships to such disorders as well as their presumed implications.
Hernstein and Wilson (1995) reports on the study of biological relationship to criminal behavior. They discovered that biological relationships to criminal behavior is utterly misguided. In fact, Herstein's report states that these discoveries suggest new and imaginative ways of reducing criminality by compassionate treatment. The opportunity we have is precisely analogous to that which we had when biological bases of other disorder were established. Herstein refers to examples of physical as well as mental illness, alcoholism, learning disabilities of various sorts and perhaps even susceptibility to drug addiction have genetic components. New we know that many forms of depression can be successfully treated with drugs. In time we may learn the same of Alzheimer's disease. A chemical treatment for the predisposition of Alzheimer's is a reasonable possibility. In contrast, crime may well be a more arduous program.
The Social System and Criminal Behavior
In Ellis (1997) summary article appraises that most criminologists are skeptical about genetic influences on criminal behavior. Ellis reviewed criminal conduct and discovered different definitions in every society. In nearly all societies with written criminal statutes Ellis revealed that a standard set of behavior patterns that are criminalized. These criminalized acts have in common the fact that they directly harm other societal members, either physically or by damaging or confiscating property. They deduced that core offenses remain throughout the world as criminalized. This means that as long as one concentrates on so-called targeted offenses (i.e., violent and property crimes), it is possible to maintain that there is little variation from one society to another in defining a criminal behavior. Although there is no gene that creates offenders, evidence of the relationship between genes and criminal behavior comes from many sources Ellis (1997).
Explanations for criminal behavior are likely to involve complex interplays among learning and genetic, hormonal, and neurochemical factors, all operating within a complex evolved social system.
How Genes are linked to Criminal Behavior?
In 2008, Mullen reviewed studies which examined 2,682 twin pairs in the U.S. and Australia. They included studies on chronic stealing, lying, bullying, arson, property destruction, weapon use, physical cruelty to animals and/or people, fighting, aggression, truancy, and running away from home. Results from the study indicated that about 71% of the disruptive conduct could be explained by genetic influence. Additionally, the report included a study on teenage male twins with two traits, including antisocial behavior and unemotional personality. Their results showed genes accounted for more than half of the acting-out behavior and callousness. The risk for anti-social behavior, substance abuse and other factors in 542 families with 17 year old twins (identical or fraternal) were included in the study. The journal article concluded an 80% rate of heritance.
Begley 2002 reports that researchers from the U.S. and New Zealand presented evidence to the following question: "Why some individuals are resilient and others remain scarred by neglect and abuse?" According to Begley's research, DNA controls how much monoamine oxidase (MAOA) exists throughout the brain. MAOA comes in two verities. One type produces low gene activity and thus small amounts of MAOA. Another type produces high gene activity and high amounts of MAOA. Begley revealed that abused boys who carry one version of a particular gene are more likely to grow up to be violent and antisocial than those carrying another version. The article show that a gene located on the X chromosome produces MAOA. MAOA is an enzyme that acts like a biochemical garbage disposal.
Begley's study on humans found the absence of MAOA had been linked to aggression. They studied 442 white male New Zealanders who had been followed since birth in 1972. They found that childhood maltreatment was far more likely to lead to adult violence in boys with the low-activity MAOA gene than in boys with the high-activity version. The 55 men who have the low activity form and had been neglected or abused were about twice as likely to have a conviction for a violent crime.
Additionally, Begley's research revealed that neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine are besieged by antidepressants. Antidepressant medications are used to target and break down neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. (See chart on top of page 7).
Tryptophan hydroxylase Impulsivity, aggression
Serotonin receptors Impulsivity, ADHD
Dopamine receptor D4 ADHD
Dopamine receptor D5 ADHD
Dopamine receptor Impulsivity, ADHD
Solute carrier family ADHD
Alpha adrenergic receptor Impulsivity, hostility
Dopa decarboxylase ADHD
Monoamine oxidase MAOA aggression, CD,
Note: The data on Gene-Behavior are adapted from "Is There a Genetic Susceptibility to Engage in Criminal Acts?" by K. Morley and W. Hall, Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, 263, pp.1
Antisocial Activities associated with Criminal Behavior
Rajender, Pandu, Sharma, Ghandi and Singh (2008) report that DNA research has revealed new information on Androgen receptors (AR). The study reports that reduced repeats in receptor genes are associated with criminal behavior . Antisocial activities (aggression, psychoticism, and tendency to rape or murder), once thought to be personality specific and influenced by environment rather than by genes, are gaining more attention among geneticists. The article revealed that AR repeating length on individuals convicted of rape or murder exposed a significant difference in the mean length. The comparison conclusively revealed a percentage of shorter repeats among rapists and murderers.
Criminal behaviors are likely to involve complex interplays among learning and genetic, hormonal, and neurochemical factors, all operating within a complex evolved social system. Claims that a genetic condition is the underlying cause of an individual's criminal act have already appeared in the courts (Elger 2005). New insights provided by molecular genetics have influenced society to adopt a disease model for some types of crime.
Moorly (2002) reveals possible outcomes as a result of genetic research on criminal behavior. They report a growing genetic contribution to criminal behavior indicates the unlikeliest that variants of single genes will be found that substantially increases the risk of engaging in criminal behavior. The more likely scenario exists that a large number of genetic variants will be identified in the presence of the necessary environmental factors and consequently will increase the likelihood of criminal activities.
Parker (2000) asserts that the age of prisons will be looked back upon with horror in much of the same way that we now look back to the workhouse. Treatment of criminals will ultimately become a medical issue.