1 minute read

Crime Causation: Biological Theories


  1. Twin and adoption studies lend support to the notion that criminal behavior has important genetic influences. The role of genetics in violent offending, however, is less clear. Our research, along with other epidemiological studies and molecular genetic investigations, have shown that violence may be genetically related to mental illness and to alcoholism.
  2. Violent offending, but not property offending, may be associated with a disturbance in fetal development. We have demonstrated that prenatal disturbances, such as exposure to the influenza virus during the second trimester of gestation and maternal smoking during pregnancy, is linked to offspring violent offending. These data suggest the possibility that the introduction of some type of teratogen during gestation may alter normal fetal development.
  3. Lower levels of serotonin have been found to distinguish criminals from noncriminals in both forensic and community samples. Serotonergic dysregulation appears to be specific to violent offenders who have committed impulsive crimes.
  4. Technological advances, such as the use of brain imaging, will undoubtedly provide exciting new data on the biological underpinnings of criminal behavior. The data thus far suggest that frontal lobe deficits may be marked among violent offenders. Continued efforts to pinpoint specific brain regions associated with an increased risk in violent offending will advance our understanding of the etiology of violent criminal behavior.

Additional topics

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?