Genetic Theories of Crime Essay

There are many theories as to why people commit crimes - Genetic Theories of Crime Essay introduction. Three theories that have been studied are biological, sociological, and psychological. Cesare Lambroso (1836-1909) believed that some people were born predisposed to antisocial behavior. Lambroso also believed that physical characteristics such as big ears, fat lips, and other physical characteristics were connected to the criminal (Greene, 2007). Biological theories of crime look for biochemical or psychological problems that people have to link them to criminal behavior. This theory believes that people are born with “criminal genes”.

It is thought that criminals can be identified through their physical characteristics and their DNA. Some researchers think that genes we inherit from parents play a role in our development. Others think the environment has a stronger role in which we become. English scientist Sir Francis Galton began to study how genetics influence intelligence. Galton believed that children inherit their intelligence from their parents, and genes were responsible for this. Galton began to do twin studies to test his theory. Identical twins have identical genetic compositions. By studying identical twins, rose in two different environments.

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Scientists can see the impact of genes on their developments. Scientists also study fraternal twins. These twins share 50 percent of their genes. Modern twin studies have shown that physical characteristics of twins are genetic, but characteristics of intelligence or personality are affected by society or family surroundings (Wallon). There have been studies that have sorted out the differences between crimes against property, and violent crimes against people. In these studies they have found heredity plays more of a role in violent crimes such as assaults, burglary, armed robbery and sexual offenses.

Environment plays more of a role in non aggressive crimes such as taking drugs, stealing, loitering, truancy, and solicitation (Greene, 2007). Adoption studies are important because they include two sets of factors that account for differences in behavior, personality, and psychopathology. These factors are biological parents and environmental parents. The link between biological parents and the adopted child is explained by genetics. The link between the adoptive parents and the adopted child is the environment.

It has been proven that adopted children who have biological parents with criminal records were more likely to be criminals themselves. Psychological research can have enormous contribution to the outcome of court trials. However, there is criticism in the different areas of research. Some members of the justice system, especially the police, do have an understanding of the psychology field and psychologist expertise. One of the major concerns is the validity of research methods used by psychologists. Critics say there is a big difference between university research students doing hypothetical cases and real jury cases and deliberations.

But there are too many points to be argued. First it is illegal to watch juries deliberate. In a scientific experiment the theory being tested is in a controlled environment, and humans find it hard to see themselves as a scientific experiment. The generalizations from experiments must be made with care. Mock trials, juries, or videotapes are learning tools for the trial system (fisher & Tryon, 1990). Psychological theory and research have been discussed for the four major parts of the court system; witness, defendant, jury, and judge.

With the defendant the justice system has to determine if they are competent enough to stand trial, and if they are not, find when they would be ready to stand trial. Witnesses need to be notified about questions they are going to be asked. They need to be warned that any information they provide could taint the trial. The judge should be given instructions regarding inadmissible evidence. Final instructions are given to the jury about a clear understanding of testimony and decision making. Forensic psychology is the psychology applied to the legal and criminal justice system.

Sometimes this is referred to as criminological or investigative psychology. Forensic psychology is used to explain and treat criminal behavior us psychological theories. The primary role of a forensic psychologist is to provide psychological expertise to the judicial system (fisher & Tryon, 1990). A forensic psychologist is concerned with the mental health of their clients and often evaluates and diagnoses mental health disorders in criminals or defendants. They may have to decide whether a law offender is sane enough to stand trial, or whether a parent is mentally competent to gain custody of a child.

A forensic psychologist may also have to pick jurors for a trial, or work with law enforcement to do criminal profiling. Forensic psychologists are committed to use any knowledge obtained from people to improve the lives of people as families or individuals. Psychologists have also taken an oath to maintain and respect the rights of groups and individuals. Their job is to help the public by researching and testing to categorize people’s behavior into dangerous, mentally ill, honest, or just to see if an individual is faking these qualities and traits.

The ethics part of forensic psychology is designed to make standards to cover any situation a psychologist may encounter. When the ethics code for psychologists was developed, it was meant to create the lifelong commitment to act ethically to everyone encountered with. It also was designed to encourage the proper and ethically correct behavior from every co worker and colleagues and to get any outside opinion from licensed professionals concerning ethical problems (bersoff, 1995).


Bersoff, D. (1995). Ethical conflicts in psychology . Washington DC: American Psychological Association. fisher, C. , & Tryon, W. (1990). ethics in applied science developmental psychology: emerging issues in an emerging field. Norwood: Ablex pubilshing. Greene, H. F. (2007). Psychology and the legal system sixth edition. Thomson Wadsworth. Wallon, H. (n. d. ). Genetic Psychology. Retrieved november 9, 2008, from http://www. marxists. org/archive/wallon/works

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