Are criminals born or made?

Topics: Crime, Criminology, Sociology Pages: 7 (2093 words) Published: March 11, 2009
There has been constant debates between criminologist and various other people involved within the profession that someone's biological factors could influence them to commit crime or equally their environmental conditions are the major influence on them committing crime.

In this essay it is argued that criminals are made rather than born. The essay will base this argument on relevant theories and empirical research that has been undertaken on this topic.

The four main arguments presented are in favour of criminals being made as opposed to being born with criminal tendencies.

First, the essay will summarise the nature/nurture debate and describe what is meant by this debate, a definition of criminal behaviour will be looked at and will describe how it is applied to this debate.

Second empirical research by B.F skinner will be discussed and his approach to testing the nature between behaviour and the environmental settings that a person is exposed to. This argument will include a study of Japans low crime rate compared with western countries and how this relates to high levels of self-control and environmental factors that can be a major cause of a person becoming involved in criminal activities through lack of a stable environment and low self-control.

Third, it is argued that child-rearing methods are important for the child's development, child-rearing that is not suitable or not administered in a nurturing environment can lead to criminality and deviance.

Fourth, this discussion will argue that the social learning theory is of big importance when deciding whether criminals are born or made. Relevant empirical research by Bandura will be included to give evidence and strengthen the argument. It is concluded that criminal behaviour is learnt and environmental factors are of much greater influence in determining if someone is likely to become criminal rather than just simply being born a criminal.

The Nature/nurture debate refers how nature hereditary or genetic factors interact with the persons nurture. These nurture forces are all the environmental factors in response to person's chances of being criminally inclined or not. This debate relating to criminology is concerned with determining what is the cause of criminal behaviour and alleging whether it is caused by either biological (nature) or environmental factors (nurture) that a person is exposed to while they are growing up (Barfeind & Bartusch 2005, p.229). The focus on nurture, which this essay will argue is behaviour that is determined by social, environmental and outside influences that the person is exposed to and it's likely result in affecting a person's chances of engaging in criminal activities.

Criminal activities are those, which a person engages in which can lead to arrest, conviction and possible incarceration this applies to all adults who commit crimes. Adolescents who commit crime are referred to as delinquents who are engaging in the act of delinquency.

Gene based approaches that are related to the nature side of the debate have very little evidence to suggest that a criminal is born and the argument that criminality allegedly runs in the family relies too heavily on genetics for the explanation rather than environmental factors. There is a distinct variable when comparing family criminality to offspring criminality. It is a very difficult task to prove that the variables are due to the genetic factors that link the family members together or the environmental factors that were present in both circumstances. Hollin (1989 p.212) argues that the more important variable is the environment; equally parents and their children commit crimes so it can't be blamed on the shared genes, but should be blamed on the environmental factors. All family members may have had deprived schooling, deficient diets, and continuing unemployment or had a comparable social class.

Experts are very sceptical and suggest that it is impossible for...


Bibliography: Bandura, A., Ross, D. & Ross, S. 1963, 'Imitation of film-mediated Aggressive Models ', Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, vol. 66, pp. 3-11.
Ellis, L. & Walsh, A 2000, Criminology: A global perspective (chapter 13: Neurologically specific biosocial theories). Boston: Allyn & BaconHirschi, Travis. 1969. Causes of Delinquency. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Maguire, M. Morgan, R & Reiner, R. 2007. The Oxford Handbook of CriminologyOxford University Press, Oxford.
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