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Study links genetics, environment with antisocial behavior

Individuals in North Dakota may be interested to learn that a recent study has suggested there may be a link between genetics, the environment in which an individual grows up in and anti-social behavior. The study was conducted by researchers from Sweden and Canada, and the results were published in the December 2014 International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology issue.

The study was conducted in Sweden with more than 1,000 students who were 17 and 18. Among other findings, researchers identified a gene that was responsible for triggering anti-social behavior in both boys and girls who were subject to physical abuse in childhood. Another of the genes identified is related to adaptability and showed an increase in its carriers among children who were around aggressive peers. The third gene connected aggressive and antisocial behavior with individuals who experienced adversity.

Although the occurrence of these genes in the population varied from 20 percent to 30 percent, researchers point out that it is not simply the genetic makeup that is significant here. These individuals are triggered by elements of their environment. Conversely, this means that an individual with one or more of these genes growing up in a nurturing environment would be much less likely to display antisocial tendencies.

As research into this area continues, it could have a significant effect on how criminal activity is viewed and prosecuted and on juvenile crimes in particular. This may involve identifying at-risk juveniles as well as giving more weight to factors such as the juvenile's home environment in choosing appropriate treatment options for juvenile offenders. While there are also privacy implications in examining an individual's DNA and genetics, studies such as these may alter the practice of criminal justice in the future.

Source: News Week, "New Study Reveals Antisocial Behaviour is Linked to Genetics", Amelia Smith, December 15, 2014

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