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Forensic Psychology – Criminality

2. Genetic Explanations of Crime

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In this module, we think about genetic explanations of crime more broadly. We begin by looking at early research on the role of genes in criminal behaviour, focussing in particular on two twin studies by Lange (1930) and Christiansen (1977) and an adoption study by Mednick et al. (1984). We discuss their findings, which suggested that genetic disposition is a significant predictor of criminal behaviour, whilst also considering the limitations of these studies. We then move on to more recent research on this topic by Brunner et al. (1993) and Tilhonen et al. (2015) which has demonstrated that a certain mutation of the MAOA gene is associated with an increase in aggressive behaviour. Finally, we consider that while these studies may suggest that genes play a significant role in violent crime, other research has highlighted the fact that genetic disposition only plays a role in combination with environmental factors, such as early childhood experiences of violence.


In this course, Prof. Francis Pakes (University of Portsmouth) discusses some issues in Criminal Psychology. In module one, we think about Lombroso and the notion of the ‘born criminal’ before moving on, in module two, to discuss genetic explanations of crime more broadly. Next, we examine cognitive explanations of crime, focussing in particular on moral reasoning in module three and cognitive distortions in module four. In the final part of the course, we turn to consider the criminal justice system, focussing on the aims of imprisonment in module five and the problem of recidivism in module six.


Francis is Professor in Criminology. He studied psychology in Groningen (the Netherlands) and received his PhD from Leiden University (the Netherlands). He joined the University of Portsmouth in 1998. Francis has a keen interest in comparative criminal justice and the role of globalisation and shaping criminal justice across the globe. His background in psychology serves him well in studying issues of mental health and criminal justice and other vulnerable and excluded populations. He is an expert on prisons, crime and justice in the Netherlands and regularly features in the media discussing prisons, violent crime and other crime and justice related issues.

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APA style

Pakes, F. (2019, October 22). Forensic Psychology – Criminality - Genetic Explanations of Crime [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Pakes, F. "Forensic Psychology – Criminality – Genetic Explanations of Crime." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 22 Oct 2019,

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