Article Explores Whether the Roots of Crime Lie Within Our Biology

Do the roots of crime lie within our biology?

That’s what a thought-provoking new article, “The new theory that could explain crime and violence in America,” sets out to explore.

In his article, writer Scott Johnson does a masterful job of explaining the science of epigenetics through the lens of an Oakland-based family plagued by generations of substance abuse and mental illness.

Epigenetics, (the idea that your grandfather’s experiences could affect you), he offers, could explain crime and violence in America.

Johnson shares with us the results of years of research on the subject that conclude one basic idea: toxic stress in our childhoods (neglect, fear, abuse, etc.) can leave a powerful chemical imprint in our cells that might negatively influence the genetic make-up of our children and even our grandchildren.

“We’re used to thinking of inheritance as DNA focused,” says Frances Champagne, a neuroscientist at Columbia University in New York. We know that the toxic effects of childhood trauma can change lives, and that those effects can spill over into future generations. But the process has been seen as social. “What’s being realized now,” says Champagne, “is that it’s biological.”

Our founder and president, Dr. Gary Slutkin, also contributed:

“The results of epigenetics should force a broader rethinking of violence. If we look at it this way, we’re able to take it out of the realm of morality. We used to think of people with leprosy as bad people because we didn’t understand what was happening. Epigenetic damage is invisible, and neuronal circuits are invisible — so until we start to talk about violence as science we’re still in the Middle Ages.”

Dr. Slutkin sees epigenetics not only as a game changer for the science of violence, but as a tool to be used by a new generation of health workers–interrupters in our case— to intervene to prevent violence .

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