Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



This chapter in, Gene-Environment Interactions in Developmental Psychopathology (K. Dodge & M. Rutter, eds. 2011), considers the relevance of GxE to criminal responsibility and sentencing. It begins with a number of preliminary assumptions that will inform the analysis. It then turns to the law’s view of the person, including the law’s implicit psychology, and the criteria for criminal responsibility. A few false starts or distractions about responsibility are disposed of briefly. With this necessary background in place, the chapter then turns specifically to the relation between GxE and criminal responsibility. It suggests that GxE causes of criminal behavior have no relation to responsibility per se, but they may be relevant to culpability if valid research discloses an association between GxE and a genuine excusing or mitigating condition. The chapter then turns to sentencing and considers whether GxE is relevant to mitigation and aggravation, and proposes that the same considerations governing responsibility ascriptions apply to mitigation and that the prediction of future danger will be the most common application for aggravation. It concludes by considering briefly how knowledge of GxE might otherwise influence criminal justice policy and practice.


Criminal law, psychology, psychiatry, mental disorders, genetic-environmental interactions, responsibility, culpability, excuses, mitigation, sentencing, rehabilitation, prevention

Publication Title

Gene-Environment Interactions in Developmental Psychopathology

Publication Citation

Chapter 11, in Gene-Environment Interactions in Developmental Psychopathology (Kenneth A. Dodge & Michael Rutter, eds., Guilford Press 2011).