Research News

Genetic factors play a role in risk of sexual offending, study finds

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 10 April 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h1903
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. 1London

Brothers and sons of convicted sex offenders are five times more likely than other men to commit such offences themselves, researchers have found—and genes, not a shared environment, are likely to be responsible.

A new study using large Swedish databases on family relationships and criminal convictions confirmed earlier studies’ findings that sexual offences tend to run in families. But this study went further, overturning the widely accepted view that this is the result of a shared environment. It is far more likely, a team from Stockholm and Oxford concluded, that genes hold the key and are responsible for 40% of the difference in risk between offenders and non-offenders. A shared environment contributes only 2% of the risk, the team reported.1

“This does not imply that the sons and brothers of sex offenders inevitably become offenders too,” said Niklas Långström, professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and lead author of the study, at a briefing at the …

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