It’s not nearly as overt as a hand sign or a coloured bandana, but DNA may offer one clue as to whether someone belongs to a gang or not.
Males with a particular form of gene called MAOA are twice as likely to join a gang, compared to those with other forms, finds a new study of more than 2000 US teens. What’s more, gang members with these mutations are far more likely to use a weapon than other members.
“For the most part, people haven’t really thought of the biological or genetic underpinnings to gang membership, says Kevin Beaver, a biosocial criminologist at Florida State University in Tallahassee, who led the study.
The relatively common mutations result in reduced levels of a protein, called monoamine oxidase A, which recycles several of the chemicals that foster neuron connections.
Low MAOA activity has been linked previously to antisocial behaviour in people who experienced child abuse. While two brain regions involved in perceiving and controlling emotions are shrunken in people with no history of criminality or abuse who have the mutation.