Genes and Abuse as Causes of Offending

Genes and Abuse as Causes of Offending

Genes and Abuse as Causes of Offending

Genes and Abuse as Causes of Offending

Synopsis

Vaske investigates whether genetic polymorphisms moderate the effects of victimization on criminal behavior for males and females. The results show that genetic factors are important for explaining why some victimized individuals engage in criminal behavior and substance use, while other victims do not engage in such behaviors. Further, the findings suggest that these gene X environment interactions vary by gender. The current research contributes to the growing body of biosocial literature which shows that behavior is a product of both genetic and environmental factors.

Excerpt

Childhood and adolescent victimization have been linked to higher levels of criminal behavior. For instance, studies have found that childhood abuse is associated with antisocial behavior during early adolescence, delinquency, substance abuse, and criminal arrest in adulthood (Hussey, Chang, & Kotch, 2006; Stouthamer-Loeber, Loeber, Homish, & Wei, 2001; Widom, 1989a). Other forms of victimization, such as adolescent violent victimization and intimate partner violence, are also related to criminal behavior and substance use during adolescence and adulthood (Roberts, Klein, & Fisher, 2003; Singer, 1986). the positive relationship between offending and childhood and adolescent victimization has been reported across studies that use officially reported measures of abuse (Widom, 1989a), selfreported measures of abuse (DeHart, 2004), data from offender samples (Kingree, Phan, & Thompson 2003), data from general population samples (Fitzgerald, 2002), and official and self-reported measures of offending (Smith & Thornberry, 1995). Thus, victimization appears to be a robust correlate of criminal behavior.

Criminological research has shown that victimization plays an important role in the etiology of offending, especially among females. Yet, there are at least four caveats that need to be considered when examining this hypothesis. First, the relationship between victimization and offending may be contingent upon the timing and context of abuse (Kruttschnitt & MacMillian, 2006). For instance, Ireland, Smith, and Thornberry’s (2002) analysis of youths from the Rochester Youth Development Study revealed that childhood maltreatment was not significantly related to drug use and delinquency during adolescence. Their results, however, revealed that adolescent . . .

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