Gene's Effect on Criminal Behavior Term Paper

Pages: 6 (1720 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice

Gene Criminal

Determining the Effect of Genetic make-up on Criminality and Criminal Behavior

Genetic predispositions to certain behaviors and conditions have been established with increasing regularity over the past decade, causing broad spectrums of what were once perceived as individual failings and personal shortcomings to be seen instead as the result, at least in part, of forces as uncontrollable as hair color or height. Addictions of all stripes, obesity, and certain personality characteristics have all been found to have at least some basis in an individual's unique genetic code, suggesting the possibility that other types of undesired or disadvantageous behaviors and predilections might also have a genetic -- or at least a semi-genetic -- cause rather than coming from purely social or personal origins.

Topic Statement

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The research proposed and described herein will attempt to determine to what extent, if any, criminality and criminal behavior is influenced by an individual's genetic make-up. Specifically, evidence of genetic as opposed to simply familial predispositions towards specific acts of criminality and criminal behavior will be sought, and the degree to which such evidence strongly suggests a causal or even a correlative relationship between genetic make-up and criminality will be assessed. This research will have major implications in the field of psychology, sociology, and criminal justice, leading to a better and more comprehensive understanding regarding the sources of crime and possibly suggesting more effective strategies and focuses for policies aimed at reducing criminality.

Term Paper on Gene's Effect on Criminal Behavior Assignment

The hypothesis that will be tested through this research is that there is, indeed, at least some modicum of genetic predisposition towards criminality and criminal behavior in certain individuals, and that this predisposition will be both preliminary identified in existing literature and more fully realized, defined, and expressed through increased direct research in the area. The existing literature on the subject will be broadened and deepened by the proposed research, which will aim to directly and unequivocally the central question to all of the research into this area, namely the existence of a genetic predisposition towards criminality and criminal behavior. By providing an extensive, direct, and objective examination of this subject, this research will either provide a more solid foundation for other such inquiries, or will suggest that this line of thinking is mistaken and should be discarded.

Literature Review

The research question has already received no small amount of attention in the current literature, beginning in earnest in the 1990s when the advances made in genetic research began to grow exponentially (Peele & DeGrandpre 1995; Roth 1996). Many of these earlier articles were largely suppositional, the works of reasonable conjecture -- and stated as such -- based on emerging evidence, suggesting new lines for extensive, objective, and empirical research to determine the validity of these suppositions (Roth 1996). There is also already evidence of a concern regarding the social implications of such research, both in its seeming denial of personal and individual responsibility for criminal behavior and in the direct implications for those possibly identified as having a "criminal" gene (Peele & DeGrandpre 1995).

Other more recent studies have been published that specifically and empirically address the question of genetics and its possible link to criminal behavior. A major problem with such research, however, has been the definition of "criminality" and "criminal behavior" (Reif et al. 2007; Roth 1996). Certain behaviors and personality traits can be identified and linked more clearly and directly with certain genetic findings, but whether or not these traits can be correlated with criminality -- and whether or not such findings will enable conclusions to be drawn about genetic predispositions towards criminality in general rather than to behavior-specific types of criminal behavior -- remains a matter of great debate, in which direct research is somewhat lacking (Reitz et al. 2004). The purely practical issues of research design and implementation present several obstacles to more detailed and extensive research in the area, but there are also other complicating factors.

Beyond the highly prominent and very real ethical concerns that exist for research into any area of genetic testing and labeling, especially when the item of attempted correlation is highly negative and controversial in its own right, there are also major political concerns in both the conducting and the results of such research (Pieri & Levitt 2008). Political ideologies, citizen's movements, and other somewhat abstract yet highly relevant elements of society can be highly influenced by such research, and there are also direct pragmatic concerns such as funding for criminal justice programs that could potentially be highly influenced by the findings of any research into this area (Pieri & Levitt 2008). Methodologies must be carefully crafted to ensure a strict and limited yet effective interpretation of results (Wensley & King 2008).

Most research studies that attempted to0 objectively and empirically measure the effect of certain genetic patterns on criminal behavior occurred using direct medical testing and social monitoring, though comparisons of social demographics have also been utilized and incorporated into such research to serve as a mitigating force, leading to more valid conclusions (Lowenstein 2003). Long-term studies involving large populations have yet to be undertaken in this area, however, and the potential benefits of such a research study to both academia and society are potentially quite large, suggesting that the groundwork for such a study be undertaken as soon as is practically possible. Limited studies regarding specific behaviors and possible social patterns already exist, but a cohesive and comprehensive research study is needed to determine the full extent and validity of these previous studies' findings, and to suggest new ways forward for further research.


The sample size for the proposed research will be quite large, preferably consisting of at least five hundred individuals with established patterns of criminality and/or criminal behavior and five hundred individuals without any record -- official or self-stated -- of similar criminality. This will ensure a wide enough population for valid results, and will allow for the inclusion of a representative diversity of both samples compared to the population as a whole. Ratio measurements will be utilized to determine the likelihood that specifically identified genetic markers do or do not have an influence on criminality, through a comparison of the genetic make-ups of the two sample groups.

The specific sampling frames to be utilized in this study are similar in many respects. Individuals will need to be at least twenty years of age, with no upper limit; a wide diversity of ages, ethnicities, gender, religion, and other demographic information will be attempted, with similar proportions in each sample population kept as similar as possible. All subjects will also necessarily be individuals with no opposition towards an anonymous mapping of their genetic code, and who will be willing to speak candidly about their criminality (or lack thereof). For the population identified as criminal, official records corroborated by personal accounts will also be a limiting factor in the sample frame, with the exact opposite criteria (i.e. The lack of an official record and a personal narrative of criminality avoidance) will also narrow the specific sampling frame considerably.

Data will be collected through standard DNA sampling and testing procedures (cheek swab, etc.) and through surveys distributed prior to genetic testing. The genetic testing is expensive, but there are really no alternatives at this point; initial exclusion through demographic and/or personal information as well as through the survey responses will limit the number of DNA tests conducted. The survey method has certain disadvantages as well, especially in terms of the honesty of respondents and lack of open-ended questioning abilities, but is the simplest and most efficient way to gather the necessary data. The genetic testing will provide the independent variable, and criminality will be tested as a dependent variable where the level of dependence and correlation is the precise research question at hand. Statistical analysis will determine what level of correlation exists, if any.

The major disadvantage to the quantitative research design proposed herein is the amount of time and cost that will necessarily be entailed in conducting the genetic tests, collecting, collating, and analyzing the surveys, and in performing regression analyses on the data to determine correlation. The overall simplicity of the design, however, will yield highly relevant and reliable results if the research is properly carried out, providing a great asset to both the research field and areas of public policy and social justice. That being said, there are some major ethical considerations that must be taken into account during the design and conducting of this research. All respondents must remain entirely anonymous, with genetic results and survey responses being coded and codes kept entirely separate from contact information. The findings of the research must also be kept under very close watch until their proper preparation for publication, to ensure that a misuse or misinterpretation of these findings does not occur with detrimental results to society or individuals with in.


It is unlikely that this research will determine with absolute certainty that there is indeed a genetic predisposition to criminality and criminal behavior. The… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Gene's Effect on Criminal Behavior.  (2010, April 4).  Retrieved July 10, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Gene's Effect on Criminal Behavior."  4 April 2010.  Web.  10 July 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Gene's Effect on Criminal Behavior."  April 4, 2010.  Accessed July 10, 2020.