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Current Developments in Genetics and Their Implications Concerning the Problems of Social Deviations

NCJ Number
QUADERNI DI CRIMINOLOGIA CLINICA Volume: 17 Issue: 2 Dated: (April/June 1975) Pages: 173-226
S A Shah
Date Published
58 pages
A review of current criminological theories linking chromosomal abnormalities and deviance is provided, and the interaction between heredity and environment is explored.
A review of the history of genetics shows disagreement between those who believe heredity determines behavior and those who see environment as the dominant factor. Current thought in the areas of both genetics and the behavioral sciences rejects the heredity-environment dichotomy as invalid. Phenotypes are not inherited, but developed as a result of interaction between genotype and environment. The genetic correlates of many types of mental illness have been the subject of numerous studies. Two studies of adopted children in Denmark and one in the United States revealed the importance of heredity in the subject's tendency to develop schizophrenia and manic-depressive symptoms when both or even one of their biological parents had psychiatric problems. Further psychiatric studies conducted in Denmark confirmed this significance of genetic factors in the etiology of psychopathy. Despite some alleged breakthroughs, numerous methodological and conceptual problems have so far prevented the conclusive interpretation of collected data. The majority of these studies has given insufficient attention to sociocultural influences on deviant behavior. These and other considerations make it unlikely that the presence of an XYY karyotype in a criminal defendant can be accepted in court as satisfying the criteria for a valid insanity defense. A multidisciplinary approach, especially to the study of aggression, must be utilized. Improved environmental conditions should be designed to minimize possible genetic vulnerabilities. Finally, inconclusive and premature data should not be exploited for social policy formulation. Brief French, English, Spanish, and German summaries are provided. A total of 62 references are appended.