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Crime Causation: Biological Theories

Sex Differences In Genetic Liability To Criminality

There is some evidence to suggest that genetic and environmental factors may differentially contribute to the risk of criminality for males and females. It has been hypothesized that females who engage in criminal activity may have a stronger genetic propensity for this type of behavior than males (Sellin). Evidence for this contention is provided by two independent adoption studies in which female property offenders had a much higher percentage of biological parents who were property offenders than did male adoptees (Sigvardsson et al.; Baker et al.). This finding is supportive of the contention that females are faced with more social pressures to remain law-abiding than males and therefore females who violate these social norms may have an added genetic push toward these behaviors.

Taken together, twin and adoption studies provide convincing evidence that criminal behavior, in both males and females, may have genetic influences. Establishing a heritable component to criminal behavior begs the question as to whether serious forms of criminal behavior, such as violent criminal offending in particular, may also be a heritable trait. Perhaps impulsive violent acts may reflect a genetic predisposition toward this type of behavior while property offending may be driven more by economic or social factors.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawCrime Causation: Biological Theories - Genetic Epidemiological Studies, Gene-environment Interactions, Sex Differences In Genetic Liability To Criminality, Is There A Genetic Liability To Violence?