- Published: September 26, 2012
- Written by Joshua Jackson
Although the landscape of criminal behavior is complex, some factors can be identified which predict recidivism. Among these, antisocial personality traits stand out as key predictors. In the naive view one might hope to identify the biological basis for these personality traits and remove them from the population through genetic screening.
A recent article in Psychiatry Research reviews the relationship between both fetal testesterone and circulating testosterone and antiosocial behavior among children, adolescents, and adults. The review found that the same biological markers that are associated with increased risk for antisocial lifestyles "can also predispose towards socially adaptive traits such as a strong achievement motivation, leadership, fair bargaining behaviors, and social assertivenes" in the presence of positive social experiences.
This result is just one example, but the underlying principle is this: any biological factor that leads to crime in some individuals likely exists for some adaptive purpose which is expressed in others. Because of this, any program of reducing crime through genetic changes in the population will at best be complex and come with costs in other areas.
1. A review on the relationship between testosterone and life-course persistent
BO Yildirim, JJL Derksen - Psychiatry Research, 2012
2. Scientists Decode an Unborn Baby’s DNA. Is It Cause for Celebration — or Alarm?
3. Meta-Analysis of the Predictors of Adult Offender Recidivism: What Works!
P Gendreau, T Little, C Goggin - Criminology, 2006