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Do people commit crimes because of genetics?

Do people commit crimes because of genetics?

Your genetic makeup could be a strong indicator of your likelihood to partake in a life of crime, according to a new study from the University of Texas at Dallas.

The study, which was published in the journal Criminology, 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.

UT Criminologist J.C. 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. They 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.”


Barnes noted that criminal behavior is learned, and doesn’t come from a criminal gene.

“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 one percent,” he said.

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