Terms of reference

1.  To define and consider ethical, social and legal issues arising from the study of the genetics of variation within the normal range of behavioural characteristics.[1]

2.  To survey the current field of research, in particular, to review:

(a) the evidence for the relative importance of genetic influences;

(b) the basis for characterisation and measurement of behaviour;

(c) the relationship between normal variation in behaviour and disease processes.

3.  To consider potential applications of the research.

4.  To consider:

(a) the ethics of undertaking research on the genetics of normal variation in behavioural characteristics[2] on human participants[3];

(b) the implications of applying the findings of such research through the development of genetic tests to establish particular characteristics in practical contexts including education, employment, insurance, legal proceedings;

(c) the particular impact of the findings of a genetic test on the individual, including an individual child or fetus, on family members, and on various social groups;

(d) the broader impact of genetic knowledge on the perception of those with relevant behavioural characteristics, including questions about stigma.


[1] And to identify the issues which are additional or complementary to those dealt with in the Council’s report on Mental Disorders and Genetics: the ethical context.

[2] Including, for example, research on intelligence, antisocial behaviour, sexual orientation and addiction.

[3] Including ethnic groupings, criminal offenders, and children.

Previous work

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