Genetics, Environment, and Crime

Kevin Beaver

in Criminology

ISBN: 9780195396607
Published online November 2010 | | DOI:
Genetics, Environment, and Crime

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The field of criminology has been guided by theories that emphasize the role of social factors such as delinquent peers, subcultures, and parental socialization in the explanation of crime and criminality. These theories, and the empirical research used to test them, have highlighted the importance that certain environments play in the etiology of antisocial behaviors. For the latter half of the 20th century, however, mainstream criminological theories have opposed the possibility that biological and genetic factors could also contribute to criminal involvement. Most theories, for example, sidestep the effects of genes, and those that do discuss genes typically downplay their significance. As a result, biology and genetics have essentially been “cut out” of criminology. Recently, however, there has been a slight shift in this trend, with a small pool of criminological research beginning to reveal the importance of genetic factors in understanding the foundations of different types of antisocial behaviors. This line of inquiry is a far cry from the outdated nature versus nurture debate that pitted environmental explanations against genetic explanations. More contemporary criminological research examining the effects of genes on various aspects of antisocial behavior draws attention to the complex ways in which genes and environments interact to contribute to human behavior in general, and to antisocial behavior in particular. No longer is it tenable to characterize genetic research as being deterministic, because there is now a solid knowledge base revealing the mutual interdependence of genes and the environment. Seen in this way, modern-day genetic criminological research is highly interdisciplinary, as reflected in the label “biosocial criminology.”

Article.  5737 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Criminal Justice ; Criminology

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