Gene x Environment Interactions in Antisocial Behavior

Authored by: Christopher J. Ferguson

The Ashgate Research Companion to Biosocial Theories of Crime

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  April  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409408437
eBook ISBN: 9781315612768
Adobe ISBN: 9781317044055


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The degree to which complex human behaviors such as criminal acts can be attributed to genetic and/or environmental factors has been a source of controversy through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Ideological positions of dogma have swung between relatively stern biological positions (e.g. Lombroso, 1876/2006; Sagan & Druyan, 1992) to relatively stern learning/socialization paradigms (American Psychological Association, 1996; Joseph, 2001). Within the field of criminology it has been observed that socialization effects tend to hold sway up through the twentieth century, with biological effects comparatively minimized in theoretical perspectives (Beaver, 2009; Wright & Miller, 1998) although this may be changing somewhat in more recent years. In my own field of psychology, which has been something of a “late comer” to criminological theory, the influence of both biology and environment is at least tacitly acknowledged. However, here too, environment heavy theories often hold sway (Pinker, 2002), and the tacit approval of biological theories may be more akin to a theoretical fig leaf for environment-heavy thinking in the field, rather than a full and rigorous embrace of evolutionary and genetic principles. Nonetheless, both fields are coming to accept that understanding criminal behavior from either a staunch environmental or biological position is increasing untenable and naïve.

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