Does it make a difference that sex offending has genetic link?

A high-profile piece of research recently suggested that the sons and brothers of convicted sex offenders are more likely to be convicted of sex crimes than others. The implication is that the potential for committing a sex offence may be written in our genes. But while this is an interesting finding, it is unlikely to help prevent sex crimes or catch offenders.

Putting a figure on the genetic basis for behaviour seems to suggest that these factors are inherited directly by the children from their parents. Of course genetic material from both parents is passed on, but genetic traits are developed through interaction between genes and the environment. As can be seen from the percentages above, the largest proportion of cases involved a large, rag bag of environmental factors, whether shared or specific to that individual, that are by far the greatest influence on behaviour than inherited genes.

Separating out genetic and environmental factors – or nature and nurture – may be useful as a model but does not really make sense because research has demonstrated that gene development is affected by the environment.

Any report of genes influencing behaviour tends to polarise opinion. Some may welcome the science and see this as confirmation that sex offenders are biologically different from other people and could perhaps be prevented from offending. Others will be concerned about the stigmatisation of family members defined as “at risk”, but still unlikely to offend themselves. Only about 2.5 percent of brothers or sons of convicted sex offenders were also convicted so the preventative programmes aimed at at-risk families, suggested by the researchers, would mainly target the innocent.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Sex offending may be in the genes but knowing that won’t prevent it

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