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Intersection of Genes, the Environment, and Crime and Delinquency: A Longitudinal Study of Offending

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2006
430 pages
Stemming from the research literature that has shown human development to involve both biological/genetic factors and social influences, this dissertation uses a genetically sensitive subsample of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) in examining whether genetic influences combine with factors in the social environment to shape antisocial behaviors.

The research findings support the hypothesis that the genetic polymorphisms will have some significant direct effects on the seven measures of antisocial behavior. Three of the outcome measures involved delinquency scales, two measured contact with the criminal justice system, and two indexed drug and alcohol abuse. Together, these dependent variables index some of the most common and most serious antisocial behaviors. All of the genetic polymorphisms selected for the study (DAT1, DRD2, DED4, 5HTT, and MAOA) exerted statistically significant direct effects on the various measures of antisocial behavior. The five genetic polymorphisms were used to test for gene X environmental correlations (peer interactions and family interactions) in the etiology of crime and delinquency. The most consistent effects were found when examining gene X environment correlations and gene X environment interactions. The findings thus show that both the environment and genes make substantial contributions to the study of offending behaviors. In order to stay informed on the mushrooming body of research that shows strong genetic influences on all types of behaviors and personality traits, criminology must make room for biosocial explanations of crime and criminality. Biosocial criminology has relevance for explaining the age-crime curve, racial and gender gaps in delinquent/criminal involvement, and the persistence of criminal behavior over long periods. Suggestions for future research are offered. Extensive tables and figures and approximately 400 references

Date Published: August 1, 2006