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Vanderbilt Kennedy Center guest lecturer explores the role of genetics in antisocial behavior

Feb. 17, 2004, 5:17 PM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ñ Are violent people born that way, or are they
products of their environments? Terrie Moffitt, professor of psychology
at the University of Wisconsin and King’s College, London, will discuss
the role genetics plays in antisocial behavior on Thursday, March 4, at
4 p.m. at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human

In a study in New Zealand spanning more than 25 years, Moffitt and her
investigative team found that 85 percent of boys with a weakened
version of the gene that controls a specific enzyme and who were abused
turned toward criminal or antisocial behavior. A past project by
Moffitt linked the onset of depression to variations in DNA combined
with a series of traumatic events in a person’s life.

"Our research provides evidence that a person’s genetic makeup can
influence their sensitivity to environmental factors," Moffitt said.
"These findings may also partly explain why not all victims of
maltreatment grow up to victimize others. Some genes may actually
promote resistance to stress and trauma."

Moffitt is a fellow of the American Society of Criminology as well as a
member of the British National Academy of Medical Sciences. She is the
recipient of the Eleanor Maccoby Book Award of the American
Psychological Association and the Wolfson Merit Award of the Royal
Society in the United Kingdom.

Moffitt’s lecture, "Gene-Environment Interplay in Antisocial Behavior:
The New Look of Behavior Genetics in Psychopathology Research," will
focus on her research into the causes and consequences of children’s
genetic predispositions to violence.

The lecture will take place at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center/MRL Building Room 241 and is free and open to the public.

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center is a national center for research on
development and developmental disabilities. For more information, visit

Media contact: Stephanie Comer (615) 343-8912

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