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Genetics and crime: Integrating new genomic discoveries into psychological research about antisocial behavior

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

J Wertz, A Caspi, D. W Belsky, A L Beckley, L Arseneault, J C Barnes, D L Corcoran, S Hogan, R M Houts, N Morgan, C L Odgers, J A Prinz, K Sugden, B S Williams, R Poulton, T E Moffitt

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)791–803
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number5
Early online date7 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


King's Authors


Drawing on psychological and sociological theories of crime causation, we tested the hypothesis that genetic risk for low educational attainment (assessed via a genome-wide polygenic score) predicts offending. We further tested hypotheses of how polygenic risk relates to the development of antisocial behavior from childhood through adulthood. Across the Dunedin and E-Risk birth cohorts of individuals growing up 20 years and 20,000 kilometres apart, education polygenic scores predicted risk of a criminal record, with modest effects. Polygenic risk manifested during primary schooling, in lower cognitive abilities, lower self-control, academic difficulties, and truancy, and predicted a life-course persistent pattern of antisocial behavior that onsets in childhood and persists into adulthood. Crime is central in the nature/nurture debate, and findings reported here demonstrate how molecular-genetic discoveries can be incorporated into established theories of antisocial behavior. They also suggest the hypothesis that improving school experiences might prevent genetic influences on crime from unfolding.
Keywords: crime, genetics, antisocial behavior, longitudinal

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