Biological Influences on Criminal Behavior
Gail S. Anderson
In reviewing introductory texts available to criminologists, one is left with the impression that biological factors are irrelevant to the formulation of criminal behavior. Where biology is mentioned at all, it receives infinitesimal coverage. This dearth of attention could at one time be blamed on shoddy research and the legitimate fear that evidence gathered along this path would be used to support eugenics extremists. However, in the past 20 years, tremendously valuable work has been accomplished that legitimately correlates biological factors such as genetics, biochemistry, diet, and brain disease to criminal behavior.
Biological Influences on Criminal Behavior fundamentally questions the way most criminologists attempt to explain, let alone ameliorate the problem of human criminal behavior. Written by Gail Anderson, a highly respected expert in forensics, who also brings a much-needed biological background to the task, this resource champions contemporary biological theory by introducing criminologists to areas of research they might not otherwise encounter.
Dr. Anderson discusses basic biological concepts such as natural selection and evolution in relation to behavior, and considers genetic factors including patterns of inheritance, sex-linked traits, and propensities toward aggression. She explores studies on hormonal effects, as well as brain chemistry, and delves deeply into organic brain dysfunction. She also looks at investigations into fetal conditions and birth-related difficulties, as well as research on nutrition and food allergies. While it is steeped in scientific research, the material is presented in a way that does not require a scientific background.
The author does not suggest that biology plays the major role in criminal behavior; however, her carefully researched work does prove that we can gain a far deeper and more useful understanding when we objectively assess all of the factors involved.
A professor of forensic entomology in the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University, Gail S. Anderson has a Ph.D. in medical and veterinary entomology. She serves as a forensics consultant to the RCMP and city police across Canada. Among her many accolades, she was listed in TIME magazine as one of top five innovators worldwide in criminal justice and recently received the Derome Award from the Canadian Society of Forensic Sciences.
Misconceptions about Animal Cloning Misconceptions about Human Cloning Does All Crime Have the Same Single Cause? XYY Man: Truth and Fallacy Problems with Experimental Design Introduction to Twin Studies Dizygotic Twins Monozygotic Twins Explanations for Twin Coincidences Using Twins to Study Genetic and Environmental Influences on Behavior Conclusion Questions for Further Study and Discussion References 5 75 76 76 77 79 80 82 86 87 88 89 92 93 93 93 Evidence for Genetic Predispositions for
that purports to explain crime. We next explore how many of the biological bases for particular criminal behaviors are, at least in potential, treatable. This is the promise of biological research into crime. While biology may offer a limited answer to larger, more philosophical questions about crime, the approach explained in this text has some distinct advantages. From this discussion, some further cautions about studying crime in general are explored. We, for example, evaluate scientific
DZ twins, then it would obviously be an environmental effect, as the fact that the MZ twins are genetically identical does not appear to make any difference. If the researcher went further and compared the trait with unrelated people, and found that the concordance rate was 70% in both MZ and DZ twins but only 10% in unrelated people, then it would indicate something either environmentally specific only to twins or something that is both genetic and environmental. 43315_C004.fm Page 93 Monday,
males is very similar (Quinsey et al., 2004); it also peaks at about age 20 but the greatest increases are in the teen years, the same time that violent crime increases (Boyd, 2000). The parallel is certainly suggestive but is it not proof. It does indicate a possible relationship that should be investigated. In addition, before puberty, the rates of homicide and suicide are similar for boys and girls; but by age 13, male rates for both are double and by age 16 they are four times as high (Denno,
system, and rodent studies have shown that male offspring of older rat mothers have lower testosterone levels (Orlebeke, 2001). Orlebeke suggests that reductions in juvenile crime may relate not only to changing social conditions, but also to biological factors such as maternal age at childbirth (Orlebeke, 2001). Fetal Maldevelopment and Minor Physical Anomalies Some children are born with what are termed “minor physical anomalies.” These are very small defects that can occur during pregnancy,