Think of some stereotypes criminals are usually adorned with: Poverty, Destitution and a wholly poor upbringing will suffice for many, but do biological factors and genetics play a greater part in these peoples’ lives than we think?

The general consensus is that deviant behaviour (legal or otherwise) is always assumed to be the product of one’s social environs, evidenced by the teacher who asks their misbehaving student “Is everything alright at home?”
In 1984, three scientists carried out an experiment to determine whether genetics played a role in the development of crime in the offspring of criminals. To make the study fair and to decrease the possibility of social factors interfering with the development of crime, Mednick, Gabrielli and Hutchings studied 14,427 adoptees who were separated from their biological (criminal) parents.

Bizarrely they discovered that “adopted-away sons had an elevated risk of having a court conviction if their biological parent, rather than their adoptive parent, had one or more court conviction,” thus demonstrating the power of genetics over social factors. Even when the adoptive parents were law-abiding and the biological parents were criminals, the study states that children were still 20% more likely to become convicted.

Studies have also shown that convictions are more prevalent amongst those with limited social opportunities, from low-income families and broken homes [United Nations, “Report of the Tenth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Vienna, 10-17 April 2000”]. This evidence does point to the greater pertinence of environmental factors in conviction demographics, but we can’t ignore the power of genetics…

Take the Jim Twins for example, two children separated at birth and unaware of each-others existence: both named their childhood dogs ‘Toy’, bit their nails, holidayed in the same Floridian beach, and made doll’s furniture; both married a Linda and THEN a Betty, both named their sons James Allen (spelt differently) – both died on the same day and from the same illness.

If genetics can determine choices and habits to this extent, and with the research from Mednick, Gabrielli and Hutchings, I think it’s safe to assume that when the boy who used to steal your packed lunch has offspring, they’ll be committing similar heinous crimes.

Settit Beyene

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