Research into predicting future behavior, particularly violence and criminal recidivism, has been enormous over the last couple of decades. To be sure, there as been tremendous improvement in figuring out the variables associated with an increased or decreased risk for future violent behavior, especially when compared to the old days of clinicians basing their opinions on impressions from interviews (which generally worked no better, statistically, than chance). However, the ability to predict future violent acts is still a work in progress - no one can say for sure what any individual will do in the future; all a well-conducted evaluation can provide at this point is the risk level of an individual to act out in the future.
Believe me, everyone involved in risk assessment would like even more precise tools and models than those currently available, even given the improvements over the last 10-20 years. According to this article, inclusion of specific genotype levels may also play a role in assessing an individual’s risk of violence. From the article:
The MAOA genotype appears to have an interactive effect with age and alcohol use, according to the authors. That is, if an individual’s MAOA genotype is found to be “high-activity,” then low age and a high degree of alcohol consumption will increase that person’s risk of violence. On the other hand, if their MAOA genotype is considered “low-activity,” then age and alcohol do not impact the individual’s risk level.
The neurological advances in all of these areas are amazing (though this stuff is getting out of my area of knowledge). The good news is that being able to identify genetic markers seems to be incredibly useful across a range of areas, and will likely continue to become easier to do over time. Having more specialized knowledge about a person’s genetic make-up, along with behavioral markers that have been documented, will provide additional support for specific interventions, and not just in this narrow area (obviously, health care possibilities are endless).
As an example, if a child is exhibiting behaviors consistent with Conduct Disorder, and they prove to have genetic markers such as the one identified above, it may make sense to start addressing issues related to substance abuse in treatment, even if they haven’t met any formal criteria for alcohol abuse to this point. Given that alcohol would pose a particular problem for this individual, attempting to head off later alcohol abuse before it leads to later violence may prove effective, especially for the individual in question. A lot of this stuff will need to be sorted out as the science continues to progress in this area, and a body of ethical guidelines will need to be developed along with it in order to prevent an abuse of this science. Otherwise, we may have some sort of genetic-screening version of Minority Report, where people are convicted of things they haven’t done based on what their genetic profile says they will do in the future. No, we don’t want that. But, being aware that certain combinations of genes, behaviors, and/or other variables will more lead to bad consequences, and providing interventions to head those bad consequences off, now that would be okay.