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Sociological research shows combined impact of genetics, social factors on delinquency
Date:7/14/2008

CHAPEL HILL, NC In one of the first studies to link molecular genetic variants to adolescent delinquency, sociological research published in the August issue of the American Sociological Review identifies three genetic predictorsof serious and violent delinquencythat gain predictive precision when considered together with social influences, such as family, friends and school processes.

Sociologists from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill explored the interaction of genetics and social influences and identified three genetic polymorphisms thatwhen examined in the context of modulating social controlsare significant predictors of delinquency. These findings about geneenvironment interactions suggest that certain genotypes and specific social control influences (e.g., family characteristics and processes; popularity and friendship characteristics; and school attendance factors) are mutually dependent on delinquency.

While many behavioral studies of geneenvironment interactions typically examine the relationship of a single factor (e.g., child abuse, stress) to genes, the present research is unique in that it systematically examines layers of social context simultaneously (i.e., family dynamics, peer relations, and school-related variables). The study uses regression analysis to reveal non-intuitive and complex relations among the researched variables.

"While genetics appear to influence delinquency, social influences such as family, friends and school seem to impact the expression of certain genetic variants," said Guang Guo, the study's lead author and a professor of sociology and faculty fellow at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's Carolina Population Center and Carolina Center for Genomic Sciences. "Positive social influences appear to reduce the delinquency-increasing effect of a genetic variant, whereas the effect of these genetic variants is amplified in the absence of social controls."

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Contact: Jackie Cooper
jcooper@asanet.org
202-247-9871
American Sociological Association
Source:Eurekalert

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