Nature vs. Nurture - Are Criminals Born Or Made?

Topics: Crime, Criminology, Sociology Pages: 7 (1921 words) Published: April 22, 2006
Do individuals become criminals as a result of heredity or genetics or is it their environment that is in fact at play? This question has left Criminologists in debate for the better part of our modern era. In order to help answer this question we must first take a closer look at the concept of Nature vs. Nurture, a popular psychological term initially created by Darwin and other positivists. "Nature vs. Nurture" refers to internal and external factors that play a role in behaviour, in this case in reference to criminals. "Nature" is paired up with the biological explanation known as internal factors. "Supporters of the biological perspective argue that we must identify the role of heredity and the importance of biophysical, as well as biosocial factors, in the environment." "Nurture", on the other hand, is always paired up with the psychological and environmental explanation known as external factors. Supporters of psychological or environmental perspective argue that we are influenced less by heredity than by social external influence. (Winterdyk, 2006:117-118). For the purpose of this essay, each perspective will be written about individually to obtain a more objective view.

"Nature" - Biological Perspective

* "A study on the prevalence of mental health problems among male federal inmates revealed that a significant number of the offenders surveyed met the criteria for anti-social personality disorders (Motiuk & Porporino, 1992)."

* "Comparing 41 murderers to 41 matched control patients, Raine, Buschshaum, and La Casse (1997) found that murderers had significantly lower levels of glucose uptake in the prefrontal cortex of the brain."

* "In summarizing the observations of several keynote speakers at the June 1995 conference called Violence as a Public Health Issue, held in Midland, Ontario, Carter noted that 'young people are more violent than ever before' and that there appeared to be some organic (biological) linkages (Carter, 1995:28-29)." (Winterdyk, 2006:118)

The above are three brilliant examples of how biology plays a key role in the way criminal minds are formed. These examples, to an extent prove that in some cases, people can not escape their biology. According to Scott, 2005, genetics is the most argued point of criminology today. Some believe that genetics cause people to commit crimes. Geneticists research to find out if a certain chromosome combination will automatically make you a criminal or not; if this is true you could see even before your child was born if it would be a criminal in society. These studies proved very successful. Here are some outcomes of the geneticist and their lab studies (Ritter, 2006):

One of the most used theories of why criminals commit crimes is the person's ability to commit crime is pre-determined. If that is so, criminals have no choice of what they do. Some of the genetic abnormalities that would make someone pre-determined would be the XYY chromosomal structure (Not effective in women, just men). A chromosomal test in prisons had an outcome of 27Y, which means most of the prisoners had that many Y chromosomes. This is a chemical imbalance caused from genetics.

These theories have been tested on people in prison and have seemed to have a high outcome. The "criminal disease" could be caused by a recessive gene passed down from one or both of the parents. This means if it is recessive in a female that both parents must give 2 recessive genes to get that disease. That is why you rarely see female criminals in our society. If the parents give the recessive gene to the male offspring then the male automatically has the disease since he does not have another X chromosome to have another dominant chromosome to overwrite the disease. Therefore, a person may carry the disease and it may not show for many generations and suddenly show up in someone. You can never tell unless you study the genes and DNA very closely.

When examining the DNA of a person the...

References: Carter, P. (1995, September). Violence: From the grave to the cradle. Financial Post Magazine, 23-48
Gado, M
        Retrieved on March 7, 2006 from
Motiuk, L.L
        Retrieved on March 4, 2006 from
Scott, S.L
        Retrieved on March 3, 2006 from
Spencer, A.R
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