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Criminology Biosocial Criminology
by
John Paul Wright

Introduction

Biological and genetic processes are believed to underlie many of the individual traits associated with persistent criminal conduct. Personality factors, such as neuroticism, mental disorders, and deficiencies in self-regulation have all been associated with biological and genetic functioning. Biological differences between individuals also help to explain why people exposed to similar environments, such as poverty, develop along different trajectories. That is, biology appears to make some individuals susceptible to certain environmental conditions while protecting others. In certain limited instances, biological factors may explain the behaviors of some individuals, such as psychopaths, but in most instances biological processes interact and correlate with environmental conditions. Commonly referred to as “gene X environment interactions” and “gene by environment correlates,” these processes highlight the complexity of human development in general, and criminal behavior specifically.

General Overviews

An overview of biosocial criminology can be found in Beaver 2009. His work contains up-to-date information on the biological and environmental variables and processes associated with antisocial behavior. Rowe’s 2002 now-classic introduction of biology and crime provides a broad overview of how biological and genetic factors influence crime. Walsh 2002 reviews evidence linking biological factors to criminal behavior and shows how biological factors can be used to supplement and specify traditional criminological theories. Robinson 2004 provides an integrated perspective on the development of criminal conduct. Wright, et al. 2007 examines the origins, development, and maintenance of criminality over the life-course. Finally, Fishbein 2000 provides a collection of scholarly chapters examining the evidence linking genetic factors to a range of problem behaviors, including alcoholism, drug abuse, and serial killing. Fishbein 2000 also contains important chapters on the treatment of criminal and problematic behaviors.

  • Beaver, Kevin M. 2009. Biosocial criminology: A primer. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt.

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    Clear explanation of biological and genetic research findings on criminal behavior. Contains information on research methodology in biosocial criminology.

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  • Fishbein, Diana, ed. 2000. The science, treatment, and prevention of antisocial behaviors: Application to the criminal justice system. Kingston, NJ: Civic Research Institute.

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    A compilation of chapters from some of the most published scholars in the field of biosocial criminology. The book is far ranging in its coverage and scientific in its approach.

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  • Robinson, Matthew B. 2004. Why crime? An integrated systems theory of antisocial behavior. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

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    Provides an example of how biological factors can be integrated into a coherent, multilevel explanation of antisocial behavior.

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  • Rowe, David C. 2002. Biology and crime. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

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    Written by an early proponent of biological influences on criminal conduct, this book provides an easy to understand overview of biological theory and findings as they relate to misconduct.

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  • Walsh, Anthony. 2002. Biosocial criminology: Introduction and integration. Cincinnati, OH: Anderson.

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    An overview of research into the biological and genetic factors associated with criminal conduct with a focus on the integration of these factors into contemporary theories of crime.

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  • Wright, John Paul, Stephen G. Tibbetts, and Leah E. Daigle. 2007. Criminals in the making: Criminality across the life course. Los Angeles: Sage.

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    Examines the origins of criminal propensity, arguing that criminality emerges from the complex interactions that occur between the brain and the immediate environment. Traces criminality across childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

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Data Sources

Data on biological and genetic correlates of antisocial behavior come from a variety of sources, from numerous disciplines, and from multiple populations. The data sources can be grouped into three general categories: (1) twin studies, (2) general population samples with genetic and biological markers, and (3) databases.

Twin Studies

Twin studies are the backbone of behavioral genetic analyses. Minnesota Twin Family Study, Mid-Atlantic Twin Registry, and Colorado Twin Registry allow researchers to estimate genetic and environmental influences on traits and behaviors. Contemporary twin registries contain invaluable information collected on thousands of twins. More recent data have been collected on the children of twins, which extends the classical twin design and gives researchers new ways to study genetic and environmental influences.

General Population Samples

Other datasets contain “genetically sensitive” data. For example, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) contains information on twins as well as siblings. These datasets generally contain more individuals than do studies based on twin registry data and they contain a greater mix of genetically related individuals, such as cousins and half-siblings. The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS), for example, contains data on siblings, twins, and a host of genetically related individuals. The Northern Finland Birth Cohorts study includes data on twins, genetically related individuals, and singletons.

Databases

There are many different types of data used in biosocial research. Some data come in the form of genetic markers, such as those found in the International HapMap Project, while other data come in the form of traditional survey methodology. The U.S. federal government and its research agencies collect and make available a broad variety of biosocial data, including data on drug abuse (National Institute of Drug Abuse Genetics Consortium) and alcoholism (Collaborative Studies on Genetics of Alcoholism), while the government of New Zealand tracks data related to antisocial behavior (National Centre for Lifecourse Research).

Behavioral Genetics

Behavioral genetics is a field of scientific study concerned with understanding the degree to which genetic and environmental factors account for variation in complex traits and behaviors. A core finding from this field is that the effects of genes are ubiquitous and account for 50 to 60 percent of the variance in adult criminal conduct. Unique environmental experiences generally account for more variation in complex traits and behaviors than do shared sources of variance. Plomin 1990 provides an easy-to-read introduction to behavioral genetics accessible to all. Reiss, et al. 2000 presents the results of his analysis of 720 families, highlighting genetic and social influences on adolescent development and psychopathology. Analyzing data from the Virginia Twin Registry, Kendler and Prescott 2006 presents findings on the association between genetic and environmental influences on an array of outcomes, including major internalizing and externalizing disorders. Excellent scholarly articles employing behavioral genetic designs can be found in the journal Behavioral Genetics.

  • Behavioral Genetics.

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    A journal dedicated to behavioral genetic analyses of complex human traits and behaviors.

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  • Kendler, Kenneth S., and Carol A. Prescott. 2006. Genes, environment, and psychopathology: Understanding the causes of psychiatric and substance use disorders. New York: Guilford Press.

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    Book-length coverage of findings from the Virginia Twins Registry. The book provides compelling evidence of the linkages between genetic and social sources of variance in internalizing and externalizing disorders.

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  • Plomin, Robert. 1990. Nature and nurture: An introduction to human behavioral genetics. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

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    An easy-to-read introduction to the field of behavioral genetics. Examines the methodology underpinning behavioral genetic analyses as well as common behavioral genetic findings.

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  • Reiss, David, Jenae M. Neiderhiser, E. Mavis Hetherington, and Robert Plomin. 2000. The relationship code: Deciphering genetic and social influences on adolescent development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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    Reveals the complex interplay between genetic and environmental factors in the creation of problem behaviors as well as stability and change in problem behaviors. One of the largest biosocial studies ever accomplished on adolescent development.

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Molecular Genetics

Outside of criminology a large body of literature has linked differences between individuals at the molecular level to a variety of antisocial behaviors, to substance use, to attention deficit disorder, and to deficits in self-control. Studies have shown that antisocial behavior is a product of multiple genes that simultaneously work together to influence cognition and behavior. Comings et al. 2000 examines the relationship between forty-two genetic variants and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and conduct disorder. Nyman et al. 2007 investigates whether thirteen genetic variants are related to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in a Finnish birth cohort. Kreek, et al. 2005 and Uhl 2004 examine the general genetic risk factors for alcohol and drug abuse. It is hypothesized that genetic variants or polymorphisms help shape the structure and functioning of the brain. In turn, brain structures can influence personality development and behavioral expressions of such traits. Buckholtz and Meyer-Lindenberg 2008 provides an in-depth description of the structural and functional brain differences found among individuals who carry a certain variant of the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene, a gene that has been linked to criminal behavior.

  • Buckholtz, Joshua W., and Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg. 2008. MAOA and the neurogenetic architecture of human aggression. Trends In Neurosciences 3:120–129.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.tins.2007.12.006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Individuals who carry the low-activity allele of the MAOA gene may be at risk for retaliatory and aggressive behavior because they have an overactive emotional system coupled with an underactive inhibitory system.

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  • Comings, David E., Radhika Gade-Andavolu, Nancy Gonzalez, Shijuan Wu, Donn Muhleman, Hezekiah Blake, F. Chiu, E. Wang, K. Farwell, S. Darakjy, R. Baker, George Dietz, George Saucier, and James P. MacMurray. 2000. Multivariate analysis of associations of 42 genes in ADHD, ODD, and conduct disorder. Clinical Genetics 58:31–40.

    DOI: 10.1034/j.1399-0004.2000.580106.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Genes related to the neurotransmitter systems and hormone/neuropeptide systems are associated with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and conduct disorder. Results suggest that ADHD, ODD, and conduct disorder are polygenic phenotypes.

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  • Guo, Guang, Michael E. Roettger, and Jean C. Shih. 2007. Contributions of the DAT1 and DRD2 genes to serious and violent delinquency among adolescents and young adults. Human Genetics 121: 125–136.

    DOI: 10.1007/s00439-006-0244-8Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Variants of the DAT1 and DRD2 gene are associated with higher levels of serious delinquency and violent delinquency.

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  • Kreek, Mary Jeanne, David A. Nielsen, Eduardo R. Butelman, and K. Steven LaForge. 2005. Genetic influences on impulsivity, risk taking, stress responsivity and vulnerability to drug abuse and addiction. Nature Neuroscience 8:1450–1457.

    DOI: 10.1038/nn1583Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Genetic factors may increase the risk of substance abuse because genetic variants may be associated with higher levels of impulsivity and heightened or exaggerated sensitivity to negative stimuli.

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  • Nyman, Emma S., Matthew N. Ogdie, Anu Loukola, Teppo Varilo, Anja Taanila, Tuula Hurtig, Irma K. Moilanen, Sandra K. Loo, James J. McGough, Marjo-Riita Järvelin, Susan L. Smalley, Stanley F. Nelson, and Leena Peltonen. 2007. ADHD candidate gene study in a population-based birth cohort: Association with DBH and DRD2. Journal Of The American Academy Of Child And Adolescent Psychiatry 46:1614–1621.

    DOI: 10.1097/chi.0b013e3181579682Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyses of data from the Northern Finland Birth Cohort Study found dopamine genes to be associated with clinical levels of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

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  • Uhl, George R. 2004. Molecular genetics of substance abuse vulnerability: Remarkable recent convergence of genome scan results. Annals Of The New York Academy Of Sciences 1025:1–13.

    DOI: 10.1196/annals.1316.001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A genome-wide scan reveals that fifteen chromosomal regions are associated with substance abuse and addiction. Results suggest that addictive behaviors are polygenic.

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Brain Structure and Function

Persistent criminal behavior has been linked to a number of structural and functional differences between the brains of offenders and the brains of nonoffenders. Structural differences are those that reflect variation in specific areas of the brain, such as the prefrontal cortex. Functional differences refer to the operation of specific structures within the brain. Garrett 2009 provides an easy-to-understand introduction to brain structure and functioning. Raine 1993 examines empirical findings on brain functioning between offenders and nonoffenders, arguing that criminal behavior fits the definition for a brain-based disorder. Exploring the role of the frontal cortex in behavioral regulation, Goldberg 2009 argues that higher order brain functions differentiate individuals and their behaviors. Finally, Blair, et al. 2005 examines the brain-based research evidence on psychopaths.

Neurotransmitters

Neurotransmission is a key underlying process of the central nervous system. Alterations in neurotransmission have been linked to mood disorders and to impulse control problems. Nelson and Trainor 2007 and Glicksohn 2002 review the empirical research on the association between neurotransmitters and antisocial behavior. Berman and Coccaro 1998 provides a case study of a criminal defendant who experienced dysfunctions in his neurotransmission process. The authors also discuss how information on defendants’ neurotransmission process may be used in legal proceedings and the types of issues that may arise from using neurobiological information in court.

Addiction

Addiction plays a prominent role in criminal behavior. Research on addiction disorders is heavily rooted in the biological sciences. Contemporary researchers understand that addiction is a function of genetics, physiology, brain functioning, hormones, and neurotransmitters, as well as environmental factors. Zuckerman 1999 describes the diathesis-stress model, which integrates biological, psychological, and environmental risk factors into an explanation of substance use. Goldman, et al. 2006 reviews the genetic markers that are relevant to addiction. In addition, the authors describe some of the personality traits and mental disorders that are common to addiction. Uhl, et al. 2008 reviews evidence from genome-wide association studies, which show that addiction is a polygenic disorder where multiple groups of genes work together to influence substance use. Brewer and Potenza 2007 describes the neurotransmitter systems that are related to addiction, and how these systems influence decision making. Volkow, et al. 2004 provides a neurobiological model that explains how brain structure and functioning change as a result of drug use. In addition, the authors discuss how findings from neurobiological studies of addiction can inform treatment decisions. The National Institute of Drug Abuse disseminates research that investigates the social and neurobiological components of addiction, as well as research on effective therapeutic interventions that target drug addiction.

  • Brewer, Judson A., and Marc N. Potenza. 2007. The neurobiology and genetics of impulse control disorders: Relationships to drug addictions. Biochemical Pharmacology 75: 63–75.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.bcp.2007.06.043Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article describes the addiction process and the structural and chemical processes that underlie addiction.

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  • Goldman, David, Gabor Oroszi, and Francesca Ducci. 2006. The genetics of addiction: Uncovering the genes. Nature Reviews Genetics 6:521–532.

    DOI: 10.1038/nrg1635Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A highly influential article that examines the genetic processes underlying many addictions. The authors focus on reward mechanisms, stress responses, and behavioral control.

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  • National Institute of Drug Abuse

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    A branch of the National Institute of Health responsible for research on addiction. This site contains multiple publications and up-to-date reports on addictions research.

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  • Uhl, George R., Tomas Drgon, Catherine Johnson, Oluwatosin O. Fatusin, Qing-Rong Liu, Carlo Contoreggi, Chuan-Yun Li, Kari Buck, and John Crabbe. 2008. “Higher order” addiction molecular genetics: Convergent data from genome-wide association in humans and mice. Biochemical Pharmacology 75: 98–111.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.bcp.2007.06.042Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Addiction is a polygenic disorder that is influenced by neurotransmitter genes, as well as genes that influence other parts of the neurotransmission process (specifically ion channel processes).

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  • Volkow, Nora D., Joanna S. Fowler, and Gene-Jack Wang. 2004. The addicted human brain viewed in the light of imaging studies: Brain circuits and treatment strategies. Neuropharmacology 47:3–13.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2004.07.019Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the reciprocal nature of neurobiology and substance abuse. Neurobiological processes can increase one’s risk of abusing drugs or alcohol. Further, substance use can alter neurobiological processes so that the individual is more likely to abuse substances in the future.

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  • Zuckerman, Marvin. 1999. Vulnerability to psychopathology: A biosocial model. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

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    A review of the diathesis-stress model. The author also applies the diathesis-stress model to anxiety disorders, mood disorders, substance use, pathological gambling, and antisocial personality disorder.

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Gene and Environment Correlations and Interactions

Individual propensities favoring addiction or criminal conduct have strong genetic underpinnings. Even so, many with these propensities do not exhibit problem behaviors. Research indicates that for some propensities to materialize, input from the environment is necessary, but individuals are differentially susceptible to environmental influences. Caspi, et al. 2002 demonstrates that some children who experience abuse, for example, go on to commit crime and to abuse their children, but most do not. Similar findings have documented individual differences in susceptibility to poverty, such as Kim-Cohen, et al. 2004, and to victimization, such as Beaver, et al. 2007. Environmental exposure to risk factors, moreover, is not random. Partly due to their own preferences and experiences, individuals choose certain environments over others. Caspi and Moffitt 2006 argues that psychiatric outcomes, such as externalizing disorders, are best understood when psychiatry and neuroscience work together. Rutter 2006 provides a comprehensive analysis of the research on, and implications of, gene-environment interactions while Jaffee and Price 2007 examines gene-environment correlations and their role in mental health.

  • Beaver, Kevin M., John P. Wright, Matt DeLisi, Leah E. Daigle, Marc L. Swatt, and Chris L. Gibson. 2007. Evidence of a gene x environment interaction in the creation of victimization: Results from a longitudinal sample of adolescents. International Journal Of Offender Therapy And Comparative Criminology 51 (6): 620–645.

    DOI: 10.1177/0306624X07304157Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study examines how genes influence who is more and who is less likely to be a victim of a crime.

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  • Caspi, Avshalom, Joseph McClay, Terrie E. Moffitt, Jonathan Mill, Judy Martin, Ian W. Craig, Alan Taylor, Richie Poulton. 2002. Role of genotype in the cycle of violence in maltreated children. Science 297:851–854.

    DOI: 10.1126/science.1072290Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A now-classic study showing how the MAOA genotype conditions the negative effects associated with child abuse to perpetuate the cycle of violence in specific children.

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  • Caspi, Avshalom, and Terrie E. Moffitt. 2006. Gene-environment interactions in psychiatry: Joining forces with neuroscience. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 7:583–590.

    DOI: 10.1038/nrn1925Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the usefulness of incorporating findings from neuroscience into a broader understanding of problem behavior and clinical disorders.

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  • Jaffee, Sara R., and Thomas S. Price. 2007. Gene-environment correlations: A review of the evidence and implications for prevention of mental illness. Molecular Psychiatry 12: 432–442.

    DOI: 10.1038/sj.mp.4001950Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A review of the evidence on gene-environment correlations as they relate to mental health and the treatment of mental disorders.

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  • Kim-Cohen, Julia, Moffitt, Terrie E., Caspi, Avshalom, and Taylor, Alan. 2004. Genetic and environmental processes in young children’s resilience and vulnerability to socioeconomic deprivation. Child Development 75 (3): 651–668.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2004.00699.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Study reveals that genes protect some children from the negative consequences of growing up in poverty. Resilience to negative environmental influences is partially genetic.

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  • Rutter, Michael. 2006. Genes and behavior: Nature-nurture interplay explained. Malden, MA, and Oxford: Blackwell.

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    Book-length treatment explaining the research on gene-environment interactions and correlations. Summarizes the complex findings relating to genetic and environmental influences on a range of problem behaviors.

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Biological Insults

Damage to the brain and central nervous system compromises healthy development and may result in behavioral problems. Wright, et al. 2008 found that early lead exposure predicted adult criminal behavior, while Cecil, et al. 2008, using brain imaging technology, found that early lead exposure reduced the volume of gray matter in the brain. Maternal consumption of alcohol during pregnancy has been found in Disney, et al. 2008 to be a robust predictor of later problem behaviors, as has maternal drug use in Bada, et al. 2007. Evidence for maternal smoking is mixed. Maughan, et al. 2004 discusses some studies that indicate that smoking is associated with behavioral problems later in life, and others that show that the effect is genetically modified. Maternal drug use appears to damage the brain of the developing fetus, to cause preterm labor, and to cause low birth weight—all risk factors for future behavioral problems.

  • Bada, Henrietta S., Abhik Das, Charles R. Bauer, Seetha Shankaran, Barry Lester, Linda LaGasse, Jane Hammond, Linda L. Wright, and Rosemary Higgins. 2007. Impact of prenatal cocaine exposure on child behavior problems through school age. Pediatrics 119 (2): e348–e359.

    DOI: 10.1542/peds.2006-1404Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds that cocaine exposure in utero can have deleterious effects on the developing fetus.

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  • Cecil, Kim M., Christopher J. Brubaker, Caleb M. Adler, Kim N. Dietrich, Mekibib Altaye, John C. Egelhoff, Stephanie Wessel, Ilayaraja Elangovan, Richard Hornung, Kelly Jarvis, and Bruce P. Lanphear. 2008. Decreased brain volume in adults with childhood lead exposure. PLoS Med 5 (5): e112.

    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0050112Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), this study was the first to document neurological degeneration associated with early lead ingestion.

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  • Disney, Elizabeth R., William Iacono, Matthew McGue, Erin Tully, and Lisa Legrand. 2008. Strengthening the case: Prenatal alcohol exposure is associated with increased risk for conduct disorder. Pediatrics 122 (6): e1225–e1230.

    DOI: 10.1542/peds.2008-1380Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A dose-response effect between maternal alcohol use and child conduct disorder was found. Consumption of alcohol, even at low to moderate levels, appears to adversely affect brain growth and function of the developing fetus.

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  • Maughan, Barbara, Alan Taylor, Avshalom Caspi, and Terrie E. Moffitt. 2004. Prenatal smoking and early childhood conduct problems testing genetic and environmental explanations of the association. Archives of General Psychiatry 61 (8): 836–843.

    DOI: 10.1001/archpsyc.61.8.836Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Maternal smoking predicts childhood conduct disorder. However, much of the effect was accounted for by shared genetic proclivities. This study highlights how neurotoxins and genes interact to protect some children while placing others at increased risk.

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  • Wright, John Paul, Kim N. Dietrich, M. Douglas Ris, Richard W. Hornung, Stephanie D. Wessel, Bruce P. Lanphear, Mona Ho, and Mary N. Rae. 2008. Association of prenatal and childhood blood lead concentrations with criminal arrests in early adulthood. PLoS Med 5 (5): e101.

    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0050101Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study provides the strongest link to date on the association between early lead exposure and criminal behavior in adulthood.

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Family Socialization Influences

Parents and their children share an environment and genes. Because of this, families are central to tests on genetic and environmental influences on criminal behavior and crime related individual traits. Rowe 1994 was the first to argue that shared genes were more important than parental socialization in the development of offspring antisocial behavior. Strongly informed by behavioral genetics, Harris 2009 maintains that parental socialization efforts have no effect on the development of offspring personality and behavior. Almost simultaneously, Cohen 1999 made similar arguments. Empirical tests including shared genetic factors and parental socialization efforts including Wright and Beaver 2005 have revealed that some offspring traits are strongly influenced by genes, such as self-control, while Jaffee, et al. 2004 shows that antisocial behaviors appear to be produced by a mix of shared genes and, to a lesser degree, socialization efforts.

  • Cohen, David B. 1999. Stranger in the nest: Do parents really shape their child’s personality, intelligence, or character? New York: Wiley.

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    Book-length treatment on why children in the same home vary so much and how these differences affect the type of parenting they receive.

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  • Harris, Judith Rich. 2009. The nurture assumption: Why children turn out the way they do. New York: Free Press.

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    A provocative, popular book about why children from the same family turn out so differently than their siblings as adults. Calls into question all theories that point to parental socialization as the determining factor in child development.

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  • Jaffee, Sara R., Monica Polo-Tomas, Alan Taylor, Avshalom Caspi, Terrie E. Moffitt, and Thomas S. Price. 2004. The limits of child effects: Evidence for genetically mediated child effects on corporal punishment but not on physical maltreatment. Developmental Psychology 40 (6): 1047–1058.

    DOI: 10.1037/0012-1649.40.6.1047Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An empirical test of hypotheses derived from Harris’s book. Results indicate that some children are exposed to corporal punishment because of shared antisocial tendencies.

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  • Rowe, David C. 1994. The limits of family influence: Genes, experience, and behavior. New York: Guilford.

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    Author who first called into question the validity of studies on parental socialization. Laid the groundwork for more extensive and better-specified research.

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  • Wright, John P., and Kevin M. Beaver. 2005. Do parents matter in creating self-control in their children? A genetically informed test of Gottfredson and Hirschi’s theory of low self-control. Criminology 43: 1169–1202.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2005.00036.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Study on the origins of low self-control, a strong correlate of criminal behavior. Results revealed that low self-control is highly heritable and is not produced by parental socialization efforts.

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Sex Differences

Violent behavior is highly concentrated in human and primate males. Males account for the majority of violence across time, across setting, and across culture. A biosocial understanding of male criminal violence involves explicating neurological and hormonal differences between males and females. One of the largest studies on sex differences in antisocial behavior was conducted by Moffitt, et al. 2008, but their work was not able to examine innate differences between males and females. Rhoads 2004 examined the debate concerning innate differences between the sexes. Rhoads argues that these differences should be taken seriously. Blum 1998 and Moir and Jessel 1991 offer insight into brain differences between the sexes and how these differences translate into behavioral and motivational differences. A more contemporary treatment of brain-based differences between sexes can be found in Baron-Cohen 2003. Moreover, writing from an evolutionary perspective, Geary 1998 offers one of the most scholarly investigations into sex differences, as does Becker, et al. 2008.

  • Baron-Cohen, Simon. 2003. The essential difference: The truth about the male and female brain. New York: Basic Books.

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    A popular book on the differences between male and female brains. Systematic coverage of contemporary research presented at a level most can understand.

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  • Becker, Jill, Karen J. Berkley, Nori Geary, Elizabeth Hampson, James P. Herman, and Elizabeth Young. 2008. Sex differences in the brain: From genes to behavior. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

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    One of the most important collections of writing on sex differences available. Highly technical, this book covers a variety of topics, including sex differences in brain development and functioning, behavior, and internalizing and externalizing disorders.

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  • Blum, Deborah. 1998. Sex on the brain: The biological differences between men and women. New York: Penguin Books.

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    A popular account by a self-described feminist newspaper writer examining research evidence on differences between males and females.

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  • Geary, David. 1998. Male, female: The evolution of human sex differences. Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

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    A scholarly book that examines sex differences through an evolutionary lens. Invaluable source for relevant science on human sex differences and sex differences between other primates.

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  • Moffitt, Terrie, Avshalom Caspi, Michael Rutter, and Phil A. Silva. 2008. Sex differences in antisocial behavior: Conduct disorder, delinquency, and violence in the Dunedin longitudinal study. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

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    Book-length investigation into sex differences in behavior in the now classic Dunedin Study. A scholarly and technical analysis of similarities and differences between the sexes.

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  • Moir, Anne and David Jessel. 1991. Brain sex: The real difference between men and women. New York: Delta.

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    A controversial yet entertaining book on the origins of sex differences and how these differences play out daily in the lives of men and women.

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  • Rhoads, Steven E. 2004. Taking sex differences seriously. San Francisco: Encounter.

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    Directly confronts the debate about innate sex differences and then goes on to explain the differences and why the differences are important to understanding a range of social outcomes.

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LAST MODIFIED: 12/14/2009

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195396607-0015

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