Can Genes for Youth Violence be Moderated by the Environment?
Research over the last decade has shown that youth violence is not wholly a function of genes.
In The Biology of Belief(Mountain of Love, 2005), Bruce Lipton Ph.D claims that epigenetic research in the last decade has established that ”DNA blueprints passed down through genes are not set in concrete at birth.” The belief that heredity is destiny is being eroded by new research showing the impact environmental factors have on genetic blueprint.
A new study linking teen destructiveness and delinquency with genetic variations also suggests that delinquent dispositions can be changed or moderated by environmental factors such as family, friends, church and school.
Genetic Expression and Youth Violence
study of 1100 adolescent boys in grades 7-12 makes a direct link between genetic variations and teen delinquency.
Examining three gene variations affecting neurotransmitters in the brain that regulate behavior such as aggression and motivation, researchers asked the inevitable questions: Why are some teens with genetic disposition to violence able to resist delinquency? What role do environmental factors play in the genetic expression of delinquency?
Gang Guo, a sociologist at the Carolina Center for Genomic Studies at the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill, studied boys with 3 genetic variations and delinquent behavior, and then cross-referenced the results of his study with environmental variables such as church attendance, repeating a grade, being popular at school or eating dinner every night with family.
The conclusion was that positive family and environmental influences reduced the negative effect of the variant genes. However, a lack of positive influences amplified their negative effects.
One example of moderation in genetic expression is found in boys with a genetic variable called DTD2. Researchers found that environmental influences such as having a daily family dinner with one or both parents seemed to have a profound leveling effect on this risky gene variant.
Another example found that repeating a grade in school intensified the genetic variation called MAOA-R2, causing boys to become seriously involved with anti-social conduct.
Environment can Moderate the Genes for Youth Violence
A second study completed at Northeastern University suggests that environmental factors such as Church and community involvement protected boys and girls from delinquency and crime.
Examining data from 1400 teenagers who lived in an upper middle class suburban neighborhood, researchers tabulated the relationships found among social controls, family bonds, church and community involvement and delinquent conduct.
Involvement with extracurricular activities after school, community and Church seemed to offer significant protection for both male and female teenagers from serious delinquent activities such as fighting, carrying a weapon or violent acts.
However, it did not protect them from risky behavior such as drinking, smoking or drunk driving. How young people felt about their school also had a profound impact on their actions. Those who viewed the academic environment in a positive way tended to be less involved with anti-social behavior.
Research on genetic expression and youth violence is not only enlightening but empowering. Knowing that one is not slave to genetic destiny allows one to make the most positive lifestyle and parenting choices for self and children.Genes disposing youth towards violence can be moderated by environmental factors such as positive family and social influences.
Courtesy of Suite 101 writer Mary Desaulniers
When is the behavior of your teen so reprehensible that you would consider calling the police?
What is clearly criminal behavior? What is delinquent behavior? Is there a difference between the two? How do you tell the difference?