luthe055: February 2012 Archives


Are you more inclined to commit a crime if it's pre-hardwired in your genes to do so? A recently released research paper by criminologist, J.C. Barnes (Ph.D) suggests that your genes do in fact play a role in whether you end up committing a crime or not during your lifetime. Barnes and his colleagues from Florida State University studied lifelong criminals, juvenile offenders and those who never committed a crime in their lifetime, a total of about 4,000 people overall to try and pinpoint just what had caused them to act (or not act) out criminally. The people were placed into three different categories: life-course persistent offenders, adolescence-limited offenders or abstainers (no crime). These three groups, otherwise known as the "three pathways found in population," were originally derived from Dr. Terri Moffitt's research in 2007, which is part of the reason for Barnes' interest in testing this theory in the first place. Moffitt's theory from her studies in assessing the psychology of crime suggests that "genetic factors will play a larger role for the life course offender as compared to the adolescent limited offender."

After doing their research and studying the results, Barnes' findings do support Moffitt's theory. The study showed that in life-long offenders, genes do play a more influential role than the environment. For the abstainers, the genetic and environmental factors were equally shared, and for adolescent offenders the environment played a bigger role. They found that although there is no gene that actually causes someone to commit a crime, there are likely hundreds or thousands of genes that incrementally increase your likelihood of committing a crime. Even though that could make up to about one percent, it still has it's affect on the brain.

I found this study highly interesting first off because of the nature-nurture debate that we have been learning about so much and secondly because I myself have always wondered if genes had something to do with people committing criminal acts. I believe that in this case as well as many others it is crucial to take into account the specific subject's background information and use it to delve further into the nature nurture debate. For the future, it will be interesting to see if the scientists can pinpoint exactly what genes are causing these behaviors, so that we can further understand why people act on their deviant thoughts and behaviors as adults and maybe possibly stop some of these vicious acts before they ever happen in the first place.

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