Can Geneics Cause Crime Essay, Research Paper
Can Genetics Cause Crime ?
Introduction to Criminal Justice System
Dr. Mike Carlie
Are genetic factors more likely to make one person
perform violent acts? Many doctors and researchers in the
field of genetics have searched for a answer to this
During 1989-93 one such researcher named Dr. Sullivan found
some interesting points about genetics and crime.
Sullivan while working for the Bush administration s
secretary of health and human services during 1989-1993 was
appalled by the epidemic of violent crimes he saw taking
place in American cities. According to Dr. Sullivan,
more than 26,000 Americans were murdered,
and six million violent crimes were committed
with young men and minorities falling victim
most frequently .
Sullivan also reported that about one in every 27 black men,
compared to one in every 205 white men, died violently also
1 in 117 black women met a untimely end as compared to white
women which only 1 in 496 were killed due to violent crimes.
This is not surprising that young males commit most of the
serious crimes. According to an article in Scientific
American, only 12.5 percent of violent crime in the U.S. in
1992 was committed by females. What is also surprising
according to W.W. Gibbs the author of Seeking the Criminal
Element, in Scientific American,(1995 March) pp 100-107,
is that a very small number of criminals are responsible for
the majority of the violent crime.
Sullivan who is now the president of the Morehouse
School of Medicine in Atlanta wanted to try and address the
violence as a public health issue. In an interview after he
left office in 1993, Dr. Sullivan explains that his rational
for this was that the higher increases in violent crimes and
specifically homicide in the young male population in large
cities. Which was higher than any other social group in
America at this time.
Dr. Sullivan then began to organize his department s
research resources under the banner of the so called
Violence Initiative as he put it. With the predominant
thought of looking at unemployment, poverty, the use of
drugs and any other factors that might help to contribute to
the likelihood of causing violence. Primarily Sullivans
research was directed towards the psychological and
sociological point of view. Sullivan primarily working with
the before mentioned points and only worked lightly with the
biological aspects, such as race, gender, brain chemistry
and genetic make up.
Dr. Sullivans research, did find some links between
aggressive behavior, and disturbances in the level of a
chemical called Serotoin. Which is directly related to
certain genes. Although there was no conclusive proof that
this abnormal gene was completely responsible for a
increases in violence, Another study in 1993 also found a
link between genes and violence. The X chromosome mutation
which was discovered in a certain Dutch family was found to
be associated with mild retardation and aggressive,
sometimes violent criminal behavior. The mutation causes
complete deficiency of the enzyme monoamine oxidase also
called (maoa), which metabolizes the neurotransmitters
serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline.
According to David Goldman, a geneticist at the
National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse points
men who possess this abnormal
gene may typically engage in impulsive
aggression, but the time, place, type, and
seriousness of their crimes ( which include
exhibitionism, attempted rape, and arson)
have been diverse and unpredictable.
Although these are examples of gene related violence,
genetic information so far has been fairly unpredictable.
Finding a defect such as the maoa mutation is an
exceedingly rare event. Also according to Margret McCarthy
of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, what
matters in not whether someone possesses a gene, but whether
that gene is expressed.
Although seems that genetics is unlikely to tell us
much of practical value about crime, other aspects of human
biology may be more useful. Adrian Rain of the University of
Southern California at Los Angeles, showed cat scans
comparing brain activity in 42 murderers with that of an
equal number of normal controls. The murderers tended to
have less prefrontal activity, was consistent with Raine s
Hypothesis that a damaged prefrontal cortex can lead to
impulsive aggressive behavior. But murderers, like the rest
of us, are a heterogeneous group of people, Rain cautioned
strongly against regarding such scans as diagnostic. And
that you can t do brain scanning on everyone and tell if
they will commit murder. In short applying this kind of
research to crime control often raises ethical and political
issues and the same can be expected of genetic scanning and
other aspects of biological research when it s related to
It is possible that genetic research may eventually
contribute something to our knowledge of crime, and perhaps
even to its control. But the contribution will most likely
be indirect. And any aspects of genetic disorders or other
biological factors, most likely will be contributed to other
things such as alcoholism and addictions rather than genes
being blamed for the violent behavior. Diana Fishbein, of
the US Department of Justice states that, criminologists
need to call for more research into behavioral disorders and
attention disorders and certain other temperamental traits
like impulstivity that might be more likely to turn up
better results in the fight against crime.
Gidds W.W. (1995,March) Seeking the Criminal Element,
Scientic American, pp 100-108.
Hallinan J. (1995, March 19th) Prisons Becoming Major
Industry, the Huntsville Times, pp A19-20.
Internet Address Text: NYU@.crime.htm.com, Genetics and
Crime, By Wilson R.J. (1994),