Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Murder Gene and Harsh Economic Conditions Driving Increase in Child Murders

Published:Tuesday | October 13, 2015 | 10:00 AM

Dr Paul Bourne, director of the Socio-Medical Research Institute in Kingston, is convinced that the economic hardships associated with urban sprawl in Jamaica are ripe conditions for the germination of a gene which he says predisposes people to commit murder, in particular child murder.

"What I am arguing is that ... there are a number of persons in Jamaica with pre-murderous pathogens, which means that there are individuals in Jamaica who are exposed, by their very nature, to murdering people and, by extension, children," he said.

According to Bourne, "There are persons who are predisposed to warfare, so they would have had that predisposition inside of them. In the event they are pressured that gene comes forward and they are likely to murder ... . It's the individual who is

predisposed by gene to these characteristics".

The concept of a murder gene is not new.

A study published in the Journal of Psychiatry last year presented findings of analysis of the genes of 895 Finnish criminals and found that the majority of violent criminals carried the genes known as MAOA (the warrior gene) and CDH13.

For Bourne, the squalid conditions of urban sprawl and unmet economic needs in Jamaica contribute to the propagation of these genes.

Bourne said he has also been tracking the incidence of child murder and abuse in relation to economic indicators and has found that children have become more prone to murder and abuse with the worsening of the harsh economic conditions currently facing the country.

32.4 per cent increase

Official statistics from the Jamaica Constabulary Force indicate a 32.4 per cent increase in child murders over the January-to-October period for 2014 and 2015.

Jamaica has already hit the 50 mark for the number of children murdered since the start of the year.

"I have been collecting data from the Office of the Children's Registry since 2007. When I ran mathematical regression curves for them, I realised they are straight-line curves. The periods for which I analysed the data were periods for which we had economic downturn, and in that period we realise there was a spike in terms of sexual abuses, physical abuses ... and that is extrapolated for child murders also," he said.

Bourne's theory, in this respect, is that when persons become economically disenfranchised, they take out their frustration on children.

He further pointed to evidence from his previous research which indicates a direct link between an increase in murders and the exchange rate in Jamaica.

"Children are like pet animals, so when you become unable to manage, the easiest person for you to prey on without having a retaliation is children. So what is happening is that as soon as people become economically frustrated," said Bourne.

andre.poyser@gleanerjm.com