Do Certain Genes Mean You’re Destined For a Life of Crime?

DNA can be linked to so many aspects of our lives… is propensity for crime one them?

t sounds like something out of a Victorian novel – the idea that any part of your biology would link you to a greater likelihood of criminal behavior. Like phrenology and other pseudosciences, the idea that some people are genetically more likely to end up as criminals seems to have it’s foundation in the misinformation of the past. And like leeches, bloodletting, and mercury as medicine, some things should be left forever in the past. Or should they?…

Is there any link between your genes and criminal behavior?

First, let’s start with one basic fact – no one is “destined for a life of crime” based on their biology. That makes it sound as if people don’t have choices. And while there are certainly situations and circumstances that make specific choices and outcomes more likely (we see that a lot here in Michigan), there’s no evidence to suggest that anyone has ever been doomed to a life as a criminal simply because of their DNA. But surprisingly, there is some indicator that DNA may play a small role in our propensity for criminal behaviors.

Wait, what?!  DNA is linked to criminal behavior?

A recent study published in Psychological Science reveals some interesting new data. Jasmin Wertz, a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University and corresponding author of the study says the reason they undertook the research in the first place was to “take a closer look at genetic associations with crime. Previous work shows that both ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ contribute to individual differences in antisocial behavior.” she explained. So in this study researchers tested whether a genetic signature previously discovered in a genome-wide association study of educational attainment, could also predict criminal behaviors. And if it could, why?  

So what did the study reveal about DNA and criminal behaviors?

Using previous research, scientists were able to create a “polygenic score” for educational attainment, which is defined as the number of years a person spends in school or at university. In other words, while income and environment strongly influence the amount of formal education a person completes, genes associated with things like brain development, cognitive function, and personality traits also play a significant and measurable role in educational attainment. But can those same genes be ties to criminal behaviors?

People with lower scores usually complete less education.

People whose polygenic score is lower, tend to complete less education according to multiple studies. But that’s not all. Wertz and her colleagues examined data collected in several studies and found that people with lower polygenic scores for educational attainment were also slightly more likely to have a criminal record by the time they reached adulthood. So what does that mean? According to Wertz, maybe nothing. As she pointed out, the effects of the genetic score on crime were small. “The majority of people will never receive a criminal record, regardless of their polygenic score. It’s not possible to accurately predict who will become a criminal based on our findings.”

No one is destined for a life of crime, or doomed to life in prison based on DNA

Scientists are relatively certain that you can’t predict anyone’s criminal future based on DNA. And we know for a fact that there are many things that affect a person’s chances of ending up behind bars, and one of those things is your lawyer. An aggressive and hard working criminal defense attorney with decades of experience is far more likely to get you a successful outcome, while a timid, inexperienced or lazy lawyer is more likely to land you in prison. Experience pays and the right attorney really is critical to the outcome of your criminal case here in Michigan.  Call 866 766 5245 (866 7No Jail) today and get the right help from some of the top criminal defense attorneys in Michigan.

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