Genetics of Adult Antisocial Behaviour


A large body of empirical research has estimated the extent to which genetic factors account for variance in antisocial behaviours, such as adulthood criminal involvement. The results of these studies have consistently revealed that approximately 50% of the variance is the result of genetic influences, with most of the remaining variance being attributable to nonshared environmental influences. Moreover, there is emerging evidence that has identified specific genetic polymorphisms as contributing to criminal involvement across the life course. More recently, researchers have examined the various ways that genetic and environmental influences interact to predict variation in crime and delinquency. Using these bodies of research as a springboard, this article will review the current state of knowledge on the genetic underpinnings to adult criminal behaviour.

Key Concepts:

  • Genetic influences account for approximately 50% of the variance in adulthood criminal behaviour.

  • Gene–environment interactions appear to be integral to the aetiology of criminal behaviour across the life course.

  • Specific genetic polymorphisms have been identified as the predisposing factors for criminal behaviour.

  • The effectiveness of treatment and prevention programmes can likely be enhanced through research examining gene–environment interactions.

  • Nonshared environmental influences account for about 50–60% of the variance in adulthood criminal behaviour, while shared environmental influences typically account for about 0–10% of the variance.

Keywords: adulthood; antisocial; crime; delinquency; genetics; interactions


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Further Reading

Anderson GS (2007) Biological Influences on Criminal Behavior. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Raine A (1993) The Psychopathology of Crime: Criminal Behavior as a Clinical Disorder. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

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Beaver, Kevin M(Jan 2014) Genetics of Adult Antisocial Behaviour. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0025230]