Are Criminals Born or Made?


Nature and nurture have greatly caused a heated debate on criminal behavior. This has prompted most of the psychologists to bring into focus the question as to whether a person’s genetic composition or the environment that these individuals have been exposed to is responsible for their behavior that is characterized with incidences of crime. In tireless effort to resolve this debate, researches have been conducted and the outcomes indicated that both the surrounding environment and genes play a crucial role in an individual’s criminality.

Some studies have provided credible evidences for this argument. Examples include the twin, adoption and family studies. In further elaboration, the prediction of criminal behavioral is a function of the interaction between genes and the environment (Larquin, 2004). An individual’s actions are not necessary determined by his/her genetic predisposition, rather if out in the open to the right environment, chances that he/she engages in antisocial or criminal life.

This discussion paper highlights on the functions played by genes and the environment in the determination of an individual’s criminal behavior. Discussion In criminal behavior, the genetic component is evident but this is not solely sufficient in determining this behavior since there is no single gene that is endowed with the responsibility to predispose crime. However, multiple genes can influence physiological processes through protein and enzyme coding and as a result lead an individual involvement into crime practices (Steen, 1996).

However, behavioral geneticists, psycho-physiologists, neuropsychologists and biochemists acknowledge the role that environmental factors, such as early life institutionalization, adverse home environment and low social class, play in determining a person’s crime life (Alper, 1995). The behavioral geneticists state that criminal behavior is more influenced by both genetic and environmental forces. This interaction between the two factors seems to have more impact than the independent additive effects of each.

Spontaneous rises in crime caused by sudden environmental changes may also be partly due to genetic factors that show out their effects or role once the environment becomes appropriate for them. This clearly elaborates that genetic inclination to crime is, in most individuals, triggered by an environmental stimulus (Cassel & Bernstein, 2007). Moreover, both factors exhibit a kind of a symbiotic relationship.

To give a support of the criminal behavior, based on genetics, the Twin study compares the monozygotic (MZ) twins, also referred to as the identical twins and their criminal behavior rates with those the fraternal or zygotic (ZG) twins’ rates of criminal behavior. The outcomes of this study indicate that the concordance rate for the monozygotic twins is higher as compared to tat of the zygotic twins. This, as a result, depicts that and individual’s genes have influence on his or her antisocial or criminal life.

A certain study of MZ twins, both in childhood and adulthood, showed higher degrees of heritability of criminal behavior despite the fact that both of them are reared up in different environments (Winden & Ash, 2009). In another case, identical twins who were brought up separately gave same results. The Mexican monozygotic twins were separated at the age of nine years and given to distinctively parents whose personalities were differing. One of the twins was brought up in a town setting while the other in a desert. Later after puberty, they started committing independent juvenile crimes.

Soon after, they were institutionalized separately for their crimes. Due do the higher concordance rates, the percentage heritability of crime liability for MZ twins is high even at old age. In addition, the concordance rates were found to be higher in males than in females in both the MZ and the DZ twins. However, on the side of the females, the MZ female twins possessed almost three times concordance rates than their DZ counterparts. From the outcomes of is data, evading from the visible fact that a certain measurable percentage of generic predilection for crime will be irrational and doubtful (Raine, 1993).

MZ twins are assumed to share similar criminal traits since they have a common environment apart from being genetically identical. Nevertheless, reduction in the heritability estimates can reduce among the MZ twins thus causing behavioral differences between the twins (Fox, 2007). This can be as a result of non-genetic biological factors such as birth complications or feto-fetal transfusion syndrome. In the case of the Mexican MZ twins, conclusions can be comfortably drawn that criminal behavior is greatly influenced by genetics factors irrespective of the diverse environments that the culprits may be exposed to.

In the adoption study, five adoption types are focused and how genetics and the environment interact in influencing an individual’s criminal behavior. These types include Danish, Swedish, Iowa 1974, Iowa 1978 and the Missouri adoption studies. In spite of the fact that these types utilized the same data, each attends to different concerns as regards the genetics of crime (Sconing, 1999). However, the types consent that genetics has some degree of predisposition to crime although each type was carried out by an independent research team and that different countries manifest heritability of crime.

Moreover, the adoption studies states that there is higher heritability for crimes of petty properties than is the case for crimes that are termed to be violent. Therefore, adoption supports the conclusion drawn from the twins’ study that heritable genetics factors contribute much in a person’s criminal behavior. In contrast of the higher nonviolent crimes heritability that of violent crimes as depicted by the adoption study, the twin study puts it across that heritability for violence is astounding (Greenspan, 1997).

However, whether the heritability for crime is violent or nonviolent in either study, genetic influences seems to be the propelling force. As aforesaid, environmental factors such as family and peers, also influence one’s criminal behavior. Problems arising within the family set up lead to sufferings to the young one. For instance, these problems may lead to Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) which greatly influences antisocial behavior (Graham 2000). These family problems may include poverty, poor parenting practices and family structure and low-level education.

Families characterized with weak family bonds, poor communication methodologies and a home environment that is not stimulating are more vulnerable to demonstrate criminal behavior than families where the parents are caring and consistent techniques of disciplining have been instituted. Engagement in an antisocial peer group also results in criminality since these antisocial peers negatively influences one another (Miles & Carey, 1997). This promotes the criminal behavior since every now and then the surrounding fosters aggressiveness.

However, hereditary factors can not be totally excluded since they have proved to cause more inclination to the criminal behavior in adults than in adolescents and children as compared to the environmental factors. In another perspective of focus, interaction between the environment (E) and heredity (H) has been argued as the cause for the antisocial behavior among individuals in different societies and countries. In this H x E interaction ideology, various suggestions have been highlighted.

For instance, an individual manifests criminal behavior only after the interaction of these factors and that the interaction (H x E interaction) causes a higher variance in the antisocial behavior as compare to either separate influence (Grunstein, 2000). Nonetheless, evidence for this kind of interaction in lacking in most of the studies. Some psychologists infer that psychoticism factors, extraversion and neuroticism factors are the criminal behavior predictors. The factors in the psychoticism facet are characterized with antisocialism, aggressive traits, impulsiveness and impersonality.

On the other hand, extraversion has a close link with sociable traits, assertiveness, one being active and possessing the ability to seek sense in every action he/she undertake (Gilbert, 2002). Anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, tension and irrationality define the neuroticism aspect. According to these psychologists, interaction between these factors explains the theory of criminality which is bases on the inheritance of a nervous system which does not respond to low level stimulations.

This unresponsiveness prompts the concerned to seek for means of achieving the desired arousal thus may end up in activities that are of high risk activities for satisfaction (Doria, 1995). Most of these activities are associated with criminal behavior and may include substance abuse, sexual promiscuity and crime with violence. Conclusion Adequate evidence to rule out that genetics is the key to determining an individual’s behavior has not yet been resolved upon. Likewise, environmental factors can not be adopted as the prominent factor that influences either criminal behavior or antisocial behavior.

However, this discussion has highlighted more points in supporting that genetics, though not the more important of the two, has a more competitive edge in causing criminal behavior. Despite the presence of various flaws in the various research information and studies and the difficulty in exclusively separating the nature aspect from the nurture counterpart, genetic and environmental factors and their influences and contributions to criminal behavior still remain a phenomenon to debate on.

However, researchers have come to a converging point and made a consensus that the degree to which genes influence criminal behavior can not be assumed. Moreover, since the genetic factors were not in a position to exhaustively highlight on this issue, a greater percentage of the same researchers agree that environmental factors have come to the rescue for what the former could not illustrate (Osborn, 2007). Similarly, an individual’s criminal behavior is a function of both genetic and environmental factors.

Moreover, genetic influences for criminal or antisocial behavior ought to be viewed as a predisposition towards crime rather than as a destiny for this behavior. Nonetheless, in my view and as evident in this paper, criminal behavior leans more to be a function of genetic factors, though no sole gene responsible, but multiple genes causing physiological changes within an individual. With the analysis of the data in the twin study, genetics seems to have greater influential power for criminal behavior than environmental factors. References Alper, J. (1995).

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