Genetic Factors of Criminal Behavior

With the discovery of DNA and how each individual has a specific DNA, the DNA has become a genetic blueprint of an individual just as the finger print was previously used and is still used as identification in forensic science.

The DNA however is a more specific clue to identification and now has identified more serial killers and murderers. With the advancement of DNA science and genetic research, many scientists are now looking into the causes of many diseases being principally of genetic origin such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and schizophrenia. With this research comes further research into neurology and the effects of the person’s genetic material. Is there a “violent gene?”

According to information written in a paper by this college student, damage to the frontal lobe of the brain takes away the function of the frontal lobe as the conscience of the human, causing the human to commit acts of horror such as serial killing. He asserts that all humans are genetically predisposed to criminal acts such as serial killing and that many serial killers do have a damaged frontal lobe that occurred when abused as children or from a severe fall.

Some forms of schizophrenia are attributed to genetic predispositions and are activated from severe accidents or a traumatic experience. The book, In Cold Blood, written by Truman Capote illustrated how these two killers (a true but fictionalized story,)  were both in severe accidents and did suffer from schizophenia.

According to a murderer had his sentence reduced due to having five genes associated with violent behavior.

Besides the genetic research into criminal behavior, there are now the ethics questions of how courts and the justice system should respond to genetic information of the person who has committed a criminal act. What if all humans are predisposed genetically to criminal acts such as the above student describes?

However, there has been much research into murderers in prison. Many murderers have been found to be XYYs rather than the normal XY male. It would appear in this case that there is some correlation between criminality and genetics. But what about people who do not have the “violent gene” but commit criminal acts?

Criminal acts are caused by a variety of reasons, one of which is the environment in which the developing child grows up. If he witnessed traumatic events or trauma was perpetrated against the child, such as in physical and sexual abuse, the child may well become a criminal acting out similar acts viciously against others.

However, though the abusive environment doesn’t cause all people that were abused to commit criminal acts, genetics could play a roll in the abused individuals who do go on to a life of criminality, such as the murderer or serial killer.

Some people who end up leading a life of crime are taught criminal behavior by their families such as the members of crime families, with the movie The Godfather being a good example of this type of criminal behavior, which does not appear to be genetic.

Genetics and criminal behavior is a very touchy subject because it could raise serious ethical questions about the privacy of an individual. Should people allow their genetic material to be public record?

Much more research into criminality and genetics is needed in order to develop any real hypotheses in this area. Ethics and genetics must also be considered when doing genetic research, especially when coining someone a criminal before they have ever committed a criminal act if their genetic material indicates they are predisposed to criminal behavior.