Genetics and the environment can help to determine who will become a sex offender, according to a new study published on Thursday in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
According to CNN, five experts from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, the University of Ottawa in Canada, and Oxford University in the U.K. wrote “Sexual offending runs in families: A 37-year nationwide study.” The study was based on over 21,000 men who were convicted of sexual crimes between 1973 and 2009 in Sweden.
The study showed that men who had a father who was convicted of a sex offense were four times as likely to become a sex offender. Men who had a brother who was convicted of a sex offense are five times as likely to commit a sex offense, according to Sky News.
Seena Fazel of the Oxford University Department of Psychiatry, an author of the published paper on the study, believes the genetic component is too remarkable to be ignored.
“There is a genetic component. It’s not insignificant. It hasn’t really be shown before in this field.”
Although the study concludes genetics account for about 40 percent of the risk of becoming a sex offender, Fazel doesn’t believe the number should be etched in stone. Seena Fazel believes the risk falls between 20 and 50 percent.
The realization that genetics can increase the likelihood that someone could become a sex offender could help governments to be more aware of those who could possibly need help and intervention before they offend, according to Fazel.
Researchers involved in the study want people to realize the overall risk is not very great. Only about 2.5 percent of men who have brothers convicted of sex crimes become sex offenders. There are many complex factors, including environmental factors, which can help determine whether a person becomes a sex offender.
It is very important to remember that there is no genetic guarantee that relatives of a sex offender will commit any sexual offenses. Genetics are just a small part of the bigger picture, and another piece of the puzzle in determining why one person in the history of a family becomes a sex offender and most others do not.
Lead scientist Professor Niklas Langstrom, from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, does not want people to worry about their risk.
“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 behavior. Of course, you don’t inherit in some kind of robotic way so that you will grow up to be a sexual offender.”
Fazel insists the study does not single out any genetic codes and stated, “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.”