Is Genetics the Lead Role for Adolescent Crime Victims! Is this part of Human Nature, or Human Nature doesn’t exist?

(ScienceDaily (May 20, 2009)Genes trump environment as the primary reason that some adolescents are more likely than others to be victimized by crime, according to groundbreaking research led by distinguished criminologist Kevin M. Beaver of The Florida State University.The study is believed to be the first to probe the genetic basis of victimization.

“Victimization can appear to be a purely environmental phenomenon, in which people are randomly victimized for reasons that have nothing to do with their genes,” said Beaver, an assistant professor in FSU’s nationally top-10-ranked College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. “However, because we know that genetically influenced traits such as low self control affect delinquent behavior, and delinquents, particularly violent ones, tend to associate with antisocial peers, I had reasons to suspect that genetic factors could influence the odds of someone becoming a victim of crime, and these formed the basis of our study.”

Beaver analyzed a sample of identical and same-sex fraternal twins drawn from a large, nationally representative sample of male and female adolescents interviewed in 1994 and 1995 for the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. “Add Health” interviewers had gathered data on participants that included details on family life, social life, romantic relationships, extracurricular activities, drug and alcohol use, and personal victimization.

The data convinced Beaver that genetic factors explained a surprisingly significant 40 to 45 percent of the variance in adolescent victimization among the twins, while non-shared environments (those environments that are not the same between siblings) explained the remaining variance. But among adolescents who were victimized repeatedly, the effect of genetic factors accounted for a whopping 64 percent of the variance.

“It stands to reason that, if genetics are part of the reason why some young people are victimized in the first place, and genetics don’t change, there’s a good chance these individuals will experience repeat victimization,” Beaver said.

“It is possible that we detected this genetic effect on victimization because it is operating indirectly through behaviors,” Beaver said. “The same genetic factors that promote antisocial behavior may also promote victimization, because adolescents who engage in acts of delinquency tend to have delinquent peers who are more likely to victimize them. In turn, these victims are more likely to be repeatedly victimized, and to victimize others.”

Thus, write Beaver and his colleagues, victims of crime are not always innocent bystanders targeted at random, but instead, sometimes actively participate in the construction of their victimization experiences.

“However, we’re not suggesting that victimization occurs because a gene is saying ‘Okay, go get victimized,’ or solely because of genetic factors,” Beaver said. “All traits and behaviors result from a combination of genes and both shared and non-shared environmental factors.”

And environmental factors can make a difference, he noted. The social and family environment in an adolescent’s life may either exacerbate or blunt genetic effects — a phenomenon known in the field of behavioral genetics as a “gene X environment interaction.”

Co-authors are criminology graduate students Brian Boutwell and J.C. Barnes of Florida State and Jonathon A. Cooper of Arizona State University.

Journal reference:

  1. Beaver et al. The Biosocial Underpinnings to Adolescent Victimization: Results From a Longitudinal Sample of Twins. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 2009; DOI: 10.1177/1541204009333830
Adapted from materials provided by Florida State University.
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Baby Screened to be Cancer Gene Free

Suddenly in my search in the net I fond this article wrote by Emily Singer, I thought to myself: is it right, or wrong? Can this kind of genetic manipulation bring other consequences to the child? Making knock-outs some times are very problematic because we are “touching” in our genes, and sometimes complications are caused by these techniques. This is the main problem of Genetic Therapy and genetic manipulation, and I even don’t talk about ethic problematic that our friends from USA are experts! In my opinion it’s a step in front, but if you want to know if I take this option to a future child of mine, my answer is no. And you?

The first baby in Britain to have been screened as an embryo for a genetic variation, called BRCA1, which greatly raises risk of breast cancer, has been born, according to recent news report. Because several members of the infant’s father’s family had been diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age, the parents decided to undergo IVF and screen their embryos for the mutation before implanting them.

The decision was a controversial one, raising arguments that this type of screening is one step on a slippery slope towards eugenics. Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, as the procedure is called, has traditionally been limited to genetic disorders known to be fatal. But as the number of known disease-linked genes grows, so do the options for testing. BRCA1 raises a women’s risk of developing breast cancer to about 80 percent, but does not guarantee that she will develop the disease.

The event has garnered extensive press in the UK, where in vitro fertilization is highly regulated; the governing body that oversees fertility only recently voted to allow this kind of screening. But in the US, where reproductive technologies are largely unregulated, such cases may already be occurring regularly. A fertility specialist I spoke with for a review published in the March 2007 issue of TR, said his lab had tested embryos for more than 150 diseases or risk genes, including the BRCA1 variant.

Little data exists on the rates of this type of testing in the U.S., one of the few developed countries with so little regulation. Sex-selection, for example, is not outlawed, though most fertility clinics say they consider it ethically questionable and decline such requests. Any disease or trait for which a genetic risk factor has been identified–one that predicts athletic prowess, for example–could theoretically be screened for, and the number is growing daily.