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Genes, maltreatment, and the cycle of violence

A paper to be published in Science (A. Caspi et al., "Role of Genotype in the Cycle of Violence in Maltreated Children") indicates that maltreated boys are significantly more likely to exhibit antisocial behavior if they inherit a functional polymorphism that results in low expression of monoamine oxidase A (MAOA). Theologians comment on the implications for human freedom and responsibility. All quotes are free to use by journalists in any news medium. Contact information is provided and follow-up interviews are encouraged.

1. Stephen G. Post, Ph.D., Professor of Bioethics, School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University and & President, The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love. 216-368-6205

"Science is learning more and more about genetic susceptibility factors in childhood and adolescence which, coupled with environmental factors, elevate the risk for developing serious mental illness or behavioral problems. For example, an entire volume of Schizophrenia Research (51, 2002) was devoted to genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia and the ongoing research programs to prevent its manifestation through the protracted use of psychotropic medications in as-of-yet undiagnosed teens. Of course, medicating young people based on family history, vague genetic factors, and the perception by parents that their adolescent's behavior is abnormal in some poorly defined way raises a host of ethical questions. It also labels the adolescent as a "prodromal," a new unofficial diagnosis for a child who is supposedly at high risk for schizophrenia, all in the context of the remarkable power differential that defines the parent-child axis.

"Caspi et al. have perhaps identified a genetic susceptibility factor for anti-social personality disorder and violence among those young people who have been subjected to severe and probable maltreatment. If they are correct in their finding, the child with low MAOA expression (a gene located on the X chromos
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Contact: Brent Waters
srns@science-spirit.org
412- 585-0842
Science and Religion Information Service
1-Aug-2002


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