Deviance: Nature vs. Nurture

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  • Topic: The Kallikak Family, Henry H. Goddard, Eugenics
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  • Published : January 24, 2013
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Deviance: Nature vs. Nurture

Every society has developed their own rules and principles, and every society contains those who break away from

these norms and expectations. These people are called deviants. All societies throughout history have had these deviants

who refuse to follow the rules set up by the community in which they live. Deviance is necessary, to some degree, for

societies to advance. Without deviance, human culture would stagnate. The causes of deviance, like many other topics, is

up for debate. Some say people are genetically determined to either be deviant or not, some say deviance is caused by the

environment in which they grow up: nature, or nurture.

Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many families were studied in order to possibly find a connection

between heredity and criminality or “feeble-mindedness” (feeble-mindedness was a term used in this time period that could

mean a number of things: various forms of mental retardation, learning disabilities, and mental illness). The two most well-

known studies were of the Jukes and the Kallikak families.

The Jukes were first studied in 1874 when a sociologist named Richard L. Dugdale studied the records of 13 prisons in

New York. After researching a number of convicts' genealogies, he found that there was a man, whom he gave the name

Max, born somewhere between 1720 and 1740 who was the ancestor of 76 convicted criminals, 18 brothel owners, 120

prostitutes, over 200 people on welfare, and 2 cases of feeble-mindedness. In 1912, another study was published on the

Jukes, this time by a man named Arthur H. Estabrook, who claimed Dugdale's study hadn't been thorough enough.

Estabrook added more than 2,000 additional people into the group of subjects included under the pseudonym “Jukes,”

raising the total to 2,820.

The Kallikak family was first studied in the same year as the last study on the Jukes was published. Henry H. Goddard

was an American psychologist who ran the New Jersey Home for the Education and Care of Feebleminded Children (now

known as Vineland Training School). In 1912, he began to study the genealogy of a woman in his facility, who he gave the

pseudonym “Deborah Kallikak.” Goddard found that the woman's great-great-great grandfather, Martin Kallikak, a

Revolutionary War hero, at one point had an illegitimate child with a feeble-minded barmaid. This child, a son, had

children of his own, who had their own children, and continued on through the generations. These descendants all wound

up poor, insane, criminal, or mentally retarded. However, after further research into Martin Kallikak's family tree, Goddard

found that his other descendants, those not related to the feeble-minded barmaid, were completely different. These children

grew up to be intelligent, prosperous, upright citizens; they went into careers like doctors, lawyers, and ministers.

According to Dugdale, Estabrook, and Goddard, there is a very clear link between genetics and the behavior in which a

person participates within their lifetime.

These studies, however, are 100 years old. Some people would argue that unless more modern research is devoted to

genetic-based deviance, that we cannot consider these studies valid today. There has been a significant amount of study

given to genetically caused deviance, in particular to the MAOA gene. In a few different studies the low-expression variant

of this gene, known as MAOA-L, has been linked to an increased risk of violence and aggressive behavior. The MAOA

gene controls the production of monoamine oxidase A, an enzyme that lowers the body's use of neurotransmitters like

dopamine and serotonin. When the MAOA-L gene is present in a person, their body will use more of these

neurotransmitters than normal, this can lead to sleep disorders, excessively impulsive or violent behaviors, and...
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