Public Health Genomics. 2014 Jul 22. [Epub ahead of print]
Impact of Behavioral Genetic Evidence on the Perceptions and Dispositions of Child Abuse Victims.
Background: Behavioral genetic research is beginning to elucidate some of the genetic contributions to human behaviors - including criminal and other problematic behaviors - and their interactions with environmental influences. One of the most studied of these interactions involves low-activity alleles of the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene, which appear to increase the risk of antisocial behavior among males in the wake of childhood maltreatment. Some scholars have suggested that decisions about disposition of child abuse victims should be shaped by these findings, but the extent of public support for such approaches has not been assessed. Methods: In this study, a representative sample of the US population (n = 250) was presented with a vignette about a child, physically abused by his mother, who was tested for the presence of an allele that increases the risk of future impulsive violent behavior. Participants were asked about their views regarding the child's disposition, including return to his mother, and medical or psychological treatment. Results: Although participants thought that genetic data should be taken into account, the presence of an allele that increases the risk of impulsive violent behavior did not affect views regarding the child's return to his mother. However, it did increase respondents' willingness to provide the child with medical treatment and their view of the child as dangerous to other children. Conclusions: The findings suggest that behavioral genetic evidence has effects on perceptions of dangerousness and tendencies to view problems as medical but that the public is cautious about the use of genetic findings in child abuse adjudications. © 2014 S. Karger AG, Basel.
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