'Warrior Gene' Responsible for Gang Membership, Weapon Use

June 5, 2009
This is assistant professor Kevin M. Beaver of the Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Credit: Michele Edmunds/FSU Photo Lab

(PhysOrg.com) -- Boys who carry a particular variation of the gene Monoamine oxidase A (MAOA), sometimes called the “warrior gene,” are more likely not only to join gangs but also to be among the most violent members and to use weapons, according to a new study from The Florida State University that is the first to confirm an MAOA link specifically to gangs and guns.

Findings apply only to males. Girls with the same variant of the MAOA gene seem resistant to its potentially violent effects on gang membership and weapon use.

Led by noted biosocial criminologist Kevin M. Beaver at FSU’s College of and Criminal Justice, the study sheds new light on the interplay of genetics and environment that produces some of society’s most serious violent offenders.

“While typically have been regarded as a sociological phenomenon, our investigation shows that variants of a specific MAOA gene, known as a ‘low-activity 3-repeat allele,’ play a significant role,” said Beaver, an award-winning researcher who has co-authored more than 50 published papers on the biosocial underpinnings of .

“Previous research has linked low-activity MAOA variants to a wide range of antisocial, even violent, behavior, but our study confirms that these variants can predict gang membership,” he said. “Moreover, we found that variants of this gene could distinguish gang members who were markedly more likely to behave violently and use weapons from members who were less likely to do either.”

The MAOA gene affects levels of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and that are related to mood and behavior, and those variants that are related to violence are hereditary. Some previous studies have found the “warrior gene” to be more prevalent in cultures that are typified by warfare and aggression.

“What’s interesting about the MAOA gene is its location on the X-chromosome,” Beaver said. “As a result, males, who have one X-chromosome and one Y-chromosome, possess only one copy of this gene, while females, who have two X-chromosomes, carry two. Thus, if a male has an allele (variant) for the MAOA gene that is linked to violence, there isn’t another copy to counteract it. Females, in contrast, have two copies, so even if they have one risk allele, they have another that could compensate for it. That’s why most MAOA research has focused on males, and probably why the MAOA effect has, for the most part, only been detected in males.”

The new study examined DNA data and lifestyle information drawn from more than 2,500 respondents to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Beaver and colleagues from Florida State, Iowa State and Saint Louis universities detailed their findings in a

paper to be published in a forthcoming edition of the journal Comprehensive Psychiatry. Currently, the paper (“Monoamine oxidase A genotype is associated with gang membership and weapon use”) is accessible online at www.comppsychjournal.com via the “Articles in Press” link.

In addition to the MAOA study, Beaver’s body of biosocial criminology research includes published research that links genetics to adolescent victimization and formation of delinquent peer groups and the use of steroids to “roid rage” -- all among the first such works in the field. He won the American Society of Criminology’s 2009 Ruth Shonle Cavan Young Scholar Award in recognition of his outstanding scholarly contributions during the short time since he earned a Ph.D. in criminal justice at the University of Cincinnati in 2006. Beaver is the coauthor/editor of “Biosocial Criminology: A Primer” (Kendall/Hunt, 2009) and six other books.

Provided by Florida State University (news : web)

Related Stories

Recommended for you


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jun 05, 2009
One gene can suggest a whole slew of social behaviors? Interesting... Next question I have is how would the presence of this gene affect brain structure, and thus behavior.
Strange stuff, anyway.
4.3 / 5 (4) Jun 05, 2009
I must have that gene. I practice Martial Arts, I own weapons (including, but not limited to, firearms), and I tend to join gangs (the US Navy, CERT, etc.).

I like how this article seems to imply that a single gene is responsible for gang membership & violence, without giving a voice to the effects of nurture over this aspect of nature.
5 / 5 (1) Jun 05, 2009
"Some previous studies have found the %u201Cwarrior gene%u201D to be more prevalent in cultures that are typified by warfare and aggression." This guy is close to getting fired for racism, I suspect. Remember, NOBODY should study such genetic variations between racial groups, only within them.
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 05, 2009
Yeah,simple,just like breeds of dogs,passive to aggressive is defined within the genes.
Over simplified,our ancestors survival value depended on the most aggressive fighters to win in battles, then pass on there genes,on the other hand the most timid could survive by running away and hiding to survive, then pass on there genes,the latter,that's how I got here,is my guess.
5 / 5 (1) Jun 05, 2009
He doesn't specify race only "cultures".

The truth is that most gangs tend to be populated with people of the same race, due to geolocation, social prejudices and trust issues and various other social factors.

Why does a small sample of 2500 people represent a definitive test group? Just how many violent gang members were part of the test sample?

If he was looking at 100,000 people that might be more definitive.
3.5 / 5 (2) Jun 05, 2009
Cool, I wonder if Hitler carried this gene variation.

Or Stalin, Mussolini, Pol Pot, Saddam, Che Guevara, Fidel, Robert Mugabe,Hugo Chávez, Nixon, Muhammad, Kim Il-sung, Ho Chi Minh, and hell there are hundreds more.

Maybe this should be renamed the A-Hole gene. After all most dictators start out in life as a two bit piss ant thug gang banger, until they murder the competition and seize control.

4 / 5 (1) Jun 06, 2009
I highly doubt this would be responsible for all violent behavior, as someone put it before, nurture does have to be considered. i myself was in a gang when i was younger, and i will tell you, it was not due to a gene, it was due to having no family that gave a crap and put me out on the streets. the gang then looked after me, gave me a place to stay, things to do, made me money, etc.

That is infinitely more likely to be the reason, as my former situation is rather common globally i think.

what i do see purpose for htis in, pending further investigation of course, is using a scan of this gene's "aggressiveness", so to speak, on offenders coming up for probation or parole. Then a more valid decision can be made on whether or not to release them.

Oh yea, whoever said something about gangs primarily being the same race...thats only partially true, and mainly within areas like the skin heads or black panthers...

true street gangs these days are a mix of everything.

for example, crips and bloods havent been all black since the 70s...

i will say though, the hispanic gangs tend to normally stick to just hispanics, but ive known white folks in hispanic gangs too. its not what race you are, its where you live and what gang rules there.
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 07, 2009
Science helps to observe and explain. Here's a bit of interesting research: the Forbes top ten most dangerous cities in America. With the use of internet tools we can also discover a thread (more like a steel cable) that binds them together beyond just their crime rates:

America's Most Dangerous Cities

1. Detroit - Democrat Mayor

2. Memphis - Democrat Mayor

3. Miami - Ind. Mayor (Liberal)

4. Las Vegas - Democrat Mayor

5. Stockton, CA - Democrat Mayor

6. Orlando - Democrat Mayor

7. Little Rock - Democrat Mayor

8. Charleston, SC - Democrat Mayor

9. Nashville - Democrat Mayor

10. Baltimore - Democrat Mayor

Perhaps this 'warrior gene' could also be labeled the 'bad liberal policy virus'.
not rated yet Jun 07, 2009
We have recently started a sevens rugby team and we came across strange and unpredictable scenarios in terms of recruiting. Im thinking, that at least partially, it may have to do with this gene.
not rated yet Jun 07, 2009
Perhaps you might figure out how the lack of social support in those cities and all the rest in the states creates a situation where a group of LIKE people, called CANADIANS....have 1 out of 912 of their citizens in the criminal justice system (incarcerated, parole, probation, detention, etc)..where in the USA..1 out of 29 AMERICANS are in the criminal justice system.

That's freaking HUGE difference for such similar societies.

The difference?

A proper SOCIAL SUPPORT SYSTEM. With the mentality to back it up, earned over a greater than 100 year time period.

The states had better learn to get it social shit together, and stop allowing corporations and politicians who benefit from the intense labeling and fear mongering of 'social agendas', those dam commies, etc..all this spearing of workable social support systems due to corporate interference. If the corporations who work with the US government did not make such mess, you would not have the murder rate and crime rates you now have in the US.

Contrary to popular belief Canada has a HUGE population of gun owners. They simply don't own HANDGUNS..which are designed to kill your neighbor, not hunt for food. In revolutions, handguns are useless. Long rifles, which the Canadians have and know how to use - are the only useful tool.

Contrary to popular belief, It is fairly easy to obtain a gun license in Canada.

it comes down to the lack of a social support network, education, and a general lack of caring for your fellow man. Basically: severe social decay is the norm in the US. Nice little fear/anger based society you have there. Fuck me.

The difference is that the Canadians recognize that it occurs and where it comes from, as we don't have the same level of corporate involvement in our money supply, or as deep into our government as the USA does. This allows us to realize and maintain the social support system and our murder and crime rates are that much lower - by that absolutely stunning and huge ratio mentioned earlier.

Your media is ALSO tied to this problem, they maintain it by constant agitation. For example, in the above post, you have some wanna-be limited intellect and limited mental reach neoconned repug nimrod screeching ab out how he'd like to blame 'democrats' (whatever the hell that is) for crime rates. Ie, beat and fear/threat everyone into submission. Cops and guns on the streets, beating everyone into a fear based solution-people hiding and fearing. No solution-just lower crime rates for that day. Fuck me. What an idiot. 12,000 years of human history-and that has NEVER worked.

Basically, your corporations, government and corporate controlled media have clouded the situation so much that a solution can't be seen, which is what they want. The lack of a proper social support system has ~~ALWAYS~~ been the problem, right from the very start.

About 150 other countries on the surface of the planet have been screaming this reality to the USA for the past 200 years (via the example of their SUCCESSFUL social support systems that END the crime scenarios), yet the nimrods in the USA can't hear.

That's the definition of dense and blind. Blinded by the illusion of freedom in the USA, obscured by deep interference by corporations and elites.

Think about it.
not rated yet Jun 07, 2009
How old is that list? Last I checked, Detroit stopped being number 1 on the list long ago, at the same time it was surpassed as the murder capital of the world (I am from detroit area originally)

KBK-I primarily agree with most everything you said (I'm even an ex US infantry soldier and I will agree with you wholeheartedly about this country).
HOWEVER, where I do not agree is that its the socialist type of behavior by our government causing murders and such. That simply isnt the case 99% of the time I guarantee you.
In texas, we can carry guns for a reason, and that is specifically so I can shoot any bastard trying to car jack me at a corner. Outside fo that though, most murders come with a motive behind it, and the rest are done by crazies that in all actuality, probably dont hear or understand half of what the government makes legal or illegal because they are just nuts.

Believe it or not, I like Canada, and actually want to move there...BUT, Canada, like it or not, get offended or not, is a bunch of pussies who couldnt handle themselves in a war for longer than 5 minutes without the big brother US support.

Lets put it like this, if the US werent around and exactly the way it is, many many countries across the world will have been conquered, and that DOES include Canada and all of its prime real estate.
Also, handguns are not useless in combat, they are called side arms for a reason, as they sit by your side as your LAST defense in combat. In some cases, this is actually a primary weapon. I was a mortar man in the infantry, which means my primary weapon was a tube, and my secondary my pistol. There is nothing wrong with handguns, they are smaller, easier to work with, and have a MUCH higher fire rate than some long rifle (providing you are talking bolt action and not semi-auto of course).
US education DEFINITELY has its weak points, which is made obvious by the different school systems throughout the US with different curriculums, BUT, were WAY ahead of Canada and where it can be in the next 50 years, if not more....and always will be, for the same reason we keep the world safe, we just do it better than others....again, like it or not.

Those 150 countries, are those also the ones we pulled from the fire and stood them on their own feet?

There is a fix for this-

A.N.U.S. - Americans for a New United States


My thought is get everyone on the same page about ANUS, both US nationals and from other places in the world, then get a petition going demanding the US government give up power back to all the people of the US and immediately disband, with a few small exceptions to give time to get a public voting system going (a real one, not some slip a ballot into a box were gonna stick 1000 fake entries in anyway setup...aka, internet based)...then they too will be out.
2.5 / 5 (2) Jun 07, 2009

The best social support system is the family with the foundation of a committed father and mother. Study after study has proven that children raised by a single parent (usually a female) or by the state are significantly more likely to become criminals.

No special gene required, just the proper nurturing, as many have already posted.

As the traditional family unit breaks down, so does the society.


The Forbes list was published in April, 2009. Here is the linke:


1 / 5 (1) Jun 07, 2009
How many Canadian university educated 'high level' scientists and researchers are in The USA? About 1 million in California alone, at last count. The best group outside of the 'project paperclip' (WWII secret project that brought 5000 high level German Scientists to the USA at the end of the war-they become a tight knit group of Nazi eugenicists and supremacists that are STILL -in perpetuity- causing enormous strife ) crew, it the Canadians who made NASA work, with regards to the aerospace works. As for supporting war, we Canadians, at one time, (WWI and WWII) had a number of soldiers which was far outside our population level. Anyway, it's not a pissing contest, it's a discussion on how to end this mess.

it starts with taking responsibility on the 'whole' within society in the specific and the general, and not turning one's back on others.

It's very difficult thing to turn around once it's settle into decay and generally has to run it's course and -die- before it can be replaced with something more workable.

I wish everyone in these situation the best, and simply hope they remove themselves from the simplicity of an externalized and 'every man for himself' attitude, which is the real point that kills such workable scenarios.

About 40% of every general population group suffers from mild to severe 'low empathy', which is the real point at which social support networks can fail. People get too into themselves too exclusively, and then the problems begin to spiral out of control.

Paying attention to this specific point and it's 'rise' in the given overall social (political) scene, is KEY to fixing these awful situations.

As an example, a 'conservative' (read:repugnican) leader in Ontario here, once tried to ram through the destruction of the school system which works so well, into some privatized and limited nightmare. Thankfully, he was slapped down pretty hard. He was fighting for his corporate friends who would benefit from a privatized school industry and We the people of Ontario.. we bloody well knew it, and called him on it.

As an example, in NY state Rockefeller and his cronies rammed through the drug laws, and then enabled his friends to take over the prison system in a 'privatized' hammer. Then the police forces were also corporately augmented.

This created the scenario that I speak of. The 'preying on' of the 'conservative' attitude (rile up the churchers!!) that 'killer boy' weed smoker needed to be put in jail for 20 years over the possession of a single joint, that was the real crime.

Before Rockefeller and the privatization of the prison system in the US, your ratios of persons in jail vs the general public ---were just like ours!

Look it up. It is true.

Your problems have a deliberate and corporate/elitist/banker origin. This is very specific, and real. Most folks can't see it for what it is, they are too immersed in the idea of 'success' in 'America' to actually visualize it.
1 / 5 (1) Jun 07, 2009
Here is a direct link to man the elitists used to twist Americans in the wind, to their own machinations. His most famous saying? "Don't be Stupid".

Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud. His works were the genesis and became the 'norm' of the 'Hidden Hand' Elitist control of the US.


"is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it?"

Reading about his man will leave a very bad taste in your mouth, but rest assured, his tactics and many stronger,more complicated, and ~subtle~ tricks are used every day on the US population via the media and the political offices.

Bernays is the originator of the methodology and the science of it.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.