Blame genes for adolescents’ antisocial behaviour, victimisation

May 15th, 2009 - 5:12 pm ICT by IANS  

London, May 15 (IANS) Genes are to blame for some adolescents being victimised by crime more than others, a new research has shown.
The study, led by criminologist Kevin M. Beaver of the Florida State University (FSU), is believed to be the first to probe the genetic basis of victimisation.

“Victimisation can appear to be a purely environmental phenomenon, in which people are randomly victimised for reasons that have nothing to do with their genes,” said Beaver, assistant professor in FSU College of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

“However, because we know that genetically influenced traits such as low self-control affect delinquent behaviour, and delinquents, particularly violent ones, tend to associate with anti-social 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,” he said.

Beaver analysed 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 victimisation.

The data convinced Beaver that genetic factors explained a surprisingly significant 40 to 45 percent of the variance in adolescent victimisation 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 victimised repeatedly, the effect of genetic factors accounted for a whopping 64 percent of the variance, said an FSU release.

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

These findings are slated for publication in a July special issue of Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice.

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