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Are There Genetic Roots to Criminal Behavior?

There’s an ongoing debate about the presumed connection between a person’s genetic makeup and criminal behavior. Criminologists use genetics as one possible explanation for why some people are more prone to break the law, while people who get into trouble frequently sometimes use the idea to argue that they can’t help themselves–that they are “born” this way. But what’s the truth? Does crime really run in families? Is there such a thing as a “born criminal?” And if you believe you have the “crime gene,” what can you do to break the cycle?

The Answers Are Complicated

An important paper published in 2012 is just one of the numerous studies on this topic. The three cowriters of the paper agree that although scientific evidence to date points to a high degree of complexity when it comes to the influence of genetics on human behavior, there may indeed be a connection between one’s propensity to commit crimes and their genetic makeup. That being said, they are careful to stress that there is not a specific “crime gene” that some people have while others don’t.

“There are likely to be hundreds, if not thousands, of genes that will incrementally increase your likelihood of being involved in a crime,” says UT Dallas criminologist Dr. J.C. Barnes, one of the cowriters of the paper. “Even if it only ratchets that probability by 1 percent, it still is a genetic effect. And it’s still important.”

Environment Plays an Important Role, Too

While genetics can predict someone’s likelihood of engaging in criminal behavior, environmental factors play an equally important role—and in many cases, both factors are in play, according to another study published by uscourts.gov. “Genes alone do not cause individuals to become criminal,” it says. “Important environmental factors…are likely to mediate the relationship between genetics and crime.” For example, a child who grows up in a law-abiding home with high moral standards will be less inclined to move toward a life of crime—even if they happen to possess genes that might otherwise steer them in that direction.

What It Means for You

Criminal behavior is a multi-faceted issue that’s hard to categorize. If you have found yourself in trouble with the law (especially more than once), you might be haunted by the notion that you can’t help it, that somehow you’re “born” to this life. However, that simply isn’t true. No genetic makeup overrides the power of choice and self-determination. Just as someone who is genetically inclined toward alcoholism can choose not to drink, you have the power to make better decisions, including avoiding negative influences or familiar surroundings that have affected your previous choices. By remaining open-minded and seeking help, you can ensure that your future doesn’t hold the same mistakes as your past.

If you’re currently facing criminal charges, the experienced attorneys at Razumich & Associates can help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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