Genes, Parenting, Self-Control, and Criminal Behavior


Self-control has been found to predict a wide variety of criminal behaviors. In addition, studies have consistently shown that parenting is an important influence on both self-control and offending. However, few studies have examined the role that biological factors may play in moderating the relationship between parenting, self-control, and offending. Using a sample of adolescent males drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (N = 3,610), we explore whether variants of the monoamine oxidase A gene (MAOA) and the dopamine transporter (DAT1) gene interact with parenting to affect self-control and offending. Results reveal that parenting interacts with these genes to influence self-control and offending, and that the parenting-by-gene interaction effect on offending is mediated by self-control. The effects of parenting on self-control and offending are most pronounced for those who carry plasticity alleles for both MAOA and DAT1. Thus, MAOA and DAT1 may be implicated in offending because they increase the negative effects of parenting on self-control. Implications for theory are discussed.

Publication Title

International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology