Sex offenders could be 'influenced' by genes

Sex offenders could be 'influenced' by genes

Sky News 3 days ago

Provided by Sky News

Genes passed down within families could significantly increase the risk of men committing sexual offences, according to groundbreaking research.

The first study of its kind has shown that men are four times more likely to carry out a sex crime if their father has been convicted for a similar offence.

The risk jumps to five times if men have a brother who has been convicted, the study of more than 21,000 sexual offenders shows.

Genetic factors account for 40-50% of the risk, with the remainder coming from the environment that men grow up in and other medical or social influences, according to results in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

The researchers stress the overall risk is small - just 2.5% of brothers of sex offenders are likely to commit similar crimes themselves.

There is no genetic inevitability that relatives of sex offenders will commit crimes themselves.

Lead scientist Professor Niklas Langstrom, from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, said: "It is important to remember that it's nothing mystic.

"People get worried about the fact that there's a strong genetic component in problematic human behaviour.

"Of course, you don't inherit in some kind of robotic way so that you will grow up to be a sexual offender."

Co-author Professor Seena Fazel, of Oxford University, said: "We are definitely not saying we have found a gene for sexual offending or anything of that kind.

"What we have found is high-quality evidence that genetic factors have a substantial influence on an increased risk of being convicted of sexual offences."

Professor Fazel said social workers already working with families could use the finding to target education and preventative psychological therapies "where they could do most good".

"The things that we think might be underlying the risk are impulsivity, boundary setting, relationship skills and problem solving.

These are behaviours that can be amenable to psychological treatments."