Genetics and Crime: Integrating New Genomic Discoveries Into Psychological Research About Antisocial Behavior.
ABSTRACT: Drawing on psychological and sociological theories of crime causation, we tested the hypothesis that genetic risk for low educational attainment (assessed via a genome-wide polygenic score) is associated with criminal offending. We further tested hypotheses of how polygenic risk relates to the development of antisocial behavior from childhood through adulthood. Across the Dunedin and Environmental Risk (E-Risk) birth cohorts of individuals growing up 20 years and 20,000 kilometers apart, education polygenic scores predicted risk of a criminal record with modest effects. Polygenic risk manifested during primary schooling in lower cognitive abilities, lower self-control, academic difficulties, and truancy, and it was associated with a life-course-persistent pattern of antisocial behavior that onsets in childhood and persists into adulthood. Crime is central in the nature-nurture debate, and findings reported here demonstrate how molecular-genetic discoveries can be incorporated into established theories of antisocial behavior. They also suggest that improving school experiences might prevent genetic influences on crime from unfolding.
Project description:While most research on the development of antisocial and criminal behavior has considered nonviolent and violent crime together, some evidence points to differential risk factors for these separate types of crime. The present study explored differential risk for nonviolent and violent crime by investigating the longitudinal associations between three key child risk factors (aggression, emotion dysregulation, and social isolation) and two key adolescent risk factors (parent detachment and deviant peer affiliation) predicting violent and nonviolent crime outcomes in early adulthood. Data on 754 participants (46% African American, 50% European American, 4% other; 58% male) oversampled for aggressive-disruptive behavior were collected across three time points. Parents and teachers rated aggression, emotion dysregulation, and social isolation in fifth grade (middle childhood, age 10-11); parents and youth rated parent detachment and deviant peer affiliation in seventh and eighth grade (early adolescence, age 12-14) and arrest data were collected when participants were 22-23 years old (early adulthood). Different pathways to violent and nonviolent crime emerged. The severity of child dysfunction in late childhood, including aggression, emotion dysregulation, and social isolation, was a powerful and direct predictor of violent crime. Although child dysfunction also predicted nonviolent crime, the direct pathway accounted for half as much variance as the direct pathway to violent crime. Significant indirect pathways through adolescent socialization experiences (peer deviancy) emerged for nonviolent crime, but not for violent crime, suggesting adolescent socialization plays a more distinctive role in predicting nonviolent than violent crime. The clinical implications of these findings are discussed.
Project description:Anger is among the earliest occurring symptoms of mental health, yet we know little about its developmental course. Further, no studies have examined whether youth with persistent anger are at an increased risk of exhibiting antisocial personality features in adulthood, or how cognitive control abilities may protect these individuals from developing such maladaptive outcomes. Trajectories of anger were delineated among 503 boys using annual assessments from childhood to middle adolescence (ages ?7-14). Associations between these trajectories and features of antisocial personality in young adulthood (age ?28) were examined, including whether cognitive control moderates this association. Five trajectories of anger were identified (i.e., childhood-onset, childhood-limited, adolescent-onset, moderate, and low). Boys in the childhood-onset group exhibited the highest adulthood antisocial personality features (e.g., psychopathy, aggression, criminal charges). However, boys in this group were buffered from these problems if they had higher levels of cognitive control during adolescence. Findings were consistent across measures from multiple informants, replicated across distinct time periods, and remained when controlling for general intelligence and prior antisocial behavior. This is the first study to document the considerable heterogeneity in the developmental course of anger from childhood to adolescence. As hypothesized, good cognitive control abilities protected youth with persistent anger problems from developing antisocial personality features in adulthood. Clinical implications and future directions are discussed.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:The aims of this study were to examine whether dispositional interpersonal callousness, negative emotionality, and hyperactivity/impulsivity uniquely influence the development of childhood-onset conduct problems and persistent criminal behavior in males, and to determine whether specific facets of negative emotionality (dysregulated anger versus anxiety) in childhood are differentially associated with the development of chronic antisocial behavior. METHOD:Childhood dispositional features and conduct problems were assessed semiannually using parent- and teacher-report measures across 9 consecutive assessments in a school-based sample of 503 boys (?7-11 years of age). Participants' criminal behavior was assessed using official records from adolescence into the early 30s. RESULTS:Interpersonal callousness, dysregulated anger, and hyperactivity/impulsivity were uniquely associated with the development of childhood-onset conduct problems. None of these features significantly predicted official records of juvenile offending after controlling for co- occurring conduct problems. However, interpersonal callousness was robustly and uniquely associated with a pattern of persistent and violent adult offending that continued into the early 30s. In contrast, anxiety problems were inversely associated with criminal offending in adolescence and adulthood after controlling for conduct problems and the other dispositional factors. CONCLUSION:Findings are consistent with theoretical models indicating that interpersonal callousness, dysregulated anger, and hyperactivity/impulsivity influence the development of childhood conduct problems. In contrast, anxiety problems in childhood tend to reduce the likelihood that boys will engage in later criminal offending. Results suggest that delinquency prevention programs should target children exhibiting features of interpersonal callousness, given that they are at high risk for engaging in chronic and violent offending in adulthood.
Project description:Crime poses a major burden for society. The heterogeneous nature of criminal behavior makes it difficult to unravel its causes. Relatively little research has been conducted on the genetic influences of criminal behavior. The few twin and adoption studies that have been undertaken suggest that about half of the variance in antisocial behavior can be explained by genetic factors. In order to identify the specific common genetic variants underlying this behavior, we conduct the first genome-wide association study (GWAS) on adult antisocial behavior. Our sample comprised a community sample of 4816 individuals who had completed a self-report questionnaire. No genetic polymorphisms reached genome-wide significance for association with adult antisocial behavior. In addition, none of the traditional candidate genes can be confirmed in our study. While not genome-wide significant, the gene with the strongest association (p-value = 8.7×10(-5)) was DYRK1A, a gene previously related to abnormal brain development and mental retardation. Future studies should use larger, more homogeneous samples to disentangle the etiology of antisocial behavior. Biosocial criminological research allows a more empirically grounded understanding of criminal behavior, which could ultimately inform and improve current treatment strategies.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Children with antisocial behaviour show deficits in the perception of emotional expressions in others that may contribute to the development and persistence of antisocial and aggressive behaviour. Current treatments for antisocial youngsters are limited in effectiveness. It has been argued that more attention should be devoted to interventions that target neuropsychological correlates of antisocial behaviour. This study examined the effect of emotion recognition training on criminal behaviour. METHODS:Emotion recognition and crime levels were studied in 50 juvenile offenders. Whilst all young offenders received their statutory interventions as the study was conducted, a subgroup of twenty-four offenders also took part in a facial affect training aimed at improving emotion recognition. Offenders in the training and control groups were matched for age, SES, IQ and lifetime crime level. All offenders were tested twice for emotion recognition performance, and recent crime data were collected after the testing had been completed. RESULTS:Before the training there were no differences between the groups in emotion recognition, with both groups displaying poor fear, sadness and anger recognition. After the training fear, sadness and anger recognition improved significantly in juvenile offenders in the training group. Although crime rates dropped in all offenders in the 6 months following emotion testing, only the group of offenders who had received the emotion training showed a significant reduction in the severity of the crimes they committed. CONCLUSIONS:The study indicates that emotion recognition can be relatively easily improved in youths who engage in serious antisocial and criminal behavior. The results suggest that improved emotion recognition has the potential to reduce the severity of reoffending.
Project description:Urban upbringing is associated with a 2-fold adulthood psychosis risk, and this association replicates for childhood psychotic symptoms. No study has investigated whether specific features of urban neighborhoods increase children's risk for psychotic symptoms, despite these early psychotic phenomena elevating risk for schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders in adulthood.Analyses were conducted on over 2000 children from the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study, a nationally-representative cohort of UK-born twins. Neighborhood-level characteristics were assessed for each family via: a geodemographic discriminator indexing neighborhood-level deprivation, postal surveys of over 5000 residents living alongside the children, and in-home interviews with the children's mothers. Children were interviewed about psychotic symptoms at age 12. Analyses were adjusted for important family-level confounders including socioeconomic status (SES), psychiatric history, and maternal psychosis.Urban residency at age-5 (OR = 1.80, 95% CI = 1.16-2.77) and age-12 (OR = 1.76, 95% CI = 1.15-2.69) were both significantly associated with childhood psychotic symptoms, but not with age-12 anxiety, depression, or antisocial behavior. The association was not attributable to family SES, family psychiatric history, or maternal psychosis, each implicated in childhood mental health. Low social cohesion, together with crime victimization in the neighborhood explained nearly a quarter of the association between urbanicity and childhood psychotic symptoms after considering family-level confounders.Low social cohesion and crime victimization in the neighborhood partly explain why children in cities have an elevated risk of developing psychotic symptoms. Greater understanding of the mechanisms leading from neighborhood-level exposures to psychotic symptoms could help target interventions for emerging childhood psychotic symptoms.
Project description:In developed countries, the majority of all violent crime is committed by a small group of antisocial recidivistic offenders, but no genes have been shown to contribute to recidivistic violent offending or severe violent behavior, such as homicide. Our results, from two independent cohorts of Finnish prisoners, revealed that a monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) low-activity genotype (contributing to low dopamine turnover rate) as well as the CDH13 gene (coding for neuronal membrane adhesion protein) are associated with extremely violent behavior (at least 10 committed homicides, attempted homicides or batteries). No substantial signal was observed for either MAOA or CDH13 among non-violent offenders, indicating that findings were specific for violent offending, and not largely attributable to substance abuse or antisocial personality disorder. These results indicate both low monoamine metabolism and neuronal membrane dysfunction as plausible factors in the etiology of extreme criminal violent behavior, and imply that at least about 5-10% of all severe violent crime in Finland is attributable to the aforementioned MAOA and CDH13 genotypes.
Project description:Importance:Antisocial behavior (ASB) places a large burden on perpetrators, survivors, and society. Twin studies indicate that half of the variation in this trait is genetic. Specific causal genetic variants have, however, not been identified. Objectives:To estimate the single-nucleotide polymorphism-based heritability of ASB; to identify novel genetic risk variants, genes, or biological pathways; to test for pleiotropic associations with other psychiatric traits; and to reevaluate the candidate gene era data through the Broad Antisocial Behavior Consortium. Design, Setting, and Participants:Genome-wide association data from 5 large population-based cohorts and 3 target samples with genome-wide genotype and ASB data were used for meta-analysis from March 1, 2014, to May 1, 2016. All data sets used quantitative phenotypes, except for the Finnish Crime Study, which applied a case-control design (370 patients and 5850 control individuals). Main Outcome and Measures:This study adopted relatively broad inclusion criteria to achieve a quantitative measure of ASB derived from multiple measures, maximizing the sample size over different age ranges. Results:The discovery samples comprised 16?400 individuals, whereas the target samples consisted of 9381 individuals (all individuals were of European descent), including child and adult samples (mean age range, 6.7-56.1 years). Three promising loci with sex-discordant associations were found (8535 female individuals, chromosome 1: rs2764450, chromosome 11: rs11215217; 7772 male individuals, chromosome X, rs41456347). Polygenic risk score analyses showed prognostication of antisocial phenotypes in an independent Finnish Crime Study (2536 male individuals and 3684 female individuals) and shared genetic origin with conduct problems in a population-based sample (394 male individuals and 431 female individuals) but not with conduct disorder in a substance-dependent sample (950 male individuals and 1386 female individuals) (R2?=?0.0017 in the most optimal model, P?=?0.03). Significant inverse genetic correlation of ASB with educational attainment (r?=?-0.52, P?=?.005) was detected. Conclusions and Relevance:The Broad Antisocial Behavior Consortium entails the largest collaboration to date on the genetic architecture of ASB, and the first results suggest that ASB may be highly polygenic and has potential heterogeneous genetic effects across sex.
Project description:To establish the link between frontal lobe dysfunction and violent and criminal behaviour, based on a review of relevant literature.Articles relating evidence of frontal lobe dysfunction with violence or crime were collected through a MEDLINE search using the keyword "frontal lobe" combined with the terms "aggression," "violence," "crime," "antisocial personality disorder," "psychopathy," "impulse control disorders", and "episodic dyscontrol." Reference lists were then searched for additional articles.High rates of neuropsychiatric abnormalities reported in persons with violent and criminal behaviour suggest an association between aggressive dyscontrol and brain injury, especially involving the frontal lobes. The studies reviewed support an association between frontal lobe dysfunction and increased aggressive and antisocial behaviour. Focal orbitofrontal injury is specifically associated with increased aggression. Deficits in frontal executive function may increase the likelihood of future aggression, but no study has reliably demonstrated a characteristic pattern of frontal network dysfunction predictive of violent crime.Clinically significant focal frontal lobe dysfunction is associated with aggressive dyscontrol, but the increased risk of violence seems less than is widely presumed. Evidence is strongest for an association between focal prefrontal damage and an impulsive subtype of aggressive behaviour.
Project description:Gene × Environment interaction contributes to externalizing disorders in childhood and adolescence, but little is known about whether such effects are long lasting or present in adulthood. We examined gene-environment interplay in the concurrent and prospective associations between antisocial peer affiliation and externalizing disorders (antisocial behavior and substance use disorders) at ages 17, 20, 24, and 29. The sample included 1,382 same-sex twin pairs participating in the Minnesota Twin Family Study. We detected a Gene × Environment interaction at age 17, such that additive genetic influences on antisocial behavior and substance use disorders were greater in the context of greater antisocial peer affiliation. This Gene × Environment interaction was not present for antisocial behavior symptoms after age 17, but it was for substance use disorder symptoms through age 29 (though effect sizes were largest at age 17). The results suggest adolescence is a critical period for the development of externalizing disorders wherein exposure to greater environmental adversity is associated with a greater expression of genetic risk. This form of Gene × Environment interaction may persist through young adulthood for substance use disorders, but it appears to be limited to adolescence for antisocial behavior.