Can Geneics Cause Crime Essay Research Paper

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

controlling crime.

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.

Sources Cited

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:, Genetics and

Crime, By Wilson R.J. (1994),


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