According to the Bible, since the day Adam and Eve made the appearance on this Earth as the first man and woman, they are wrested both by the goodness and criminality as the integral part of their nature. Since then deep inside every criminal, there are some traits of goodness and on other hand in every good person, a person of integrity, there are traits of criminal behavior. Extremity of the situation arises when person develops criminality traits more and adheres to criminal behaviors.
Eve was given two paths to choose from, one was the righteous path and another was the path of temptation-the easiest path. Eve knew apple was the forbidden fruit but her inner impulses tempted her towards the fruit – an irresistible pleasure. Her wrong decision developed the nature of human beings and their life as we are looking at today. We human beings inherited this very trait of temptation, which if grows more can bring person into the life of the criminality.
Now the question arises, “What causes criminal behavior?” Is nature or nurture responsible for it? Or in other words, “do we owe the criminal behavior to the individual’s genetic makeup or due to the environment in which a person is raised?” (Jones, Online Edition) Studies conducted revealed the fact that it is both the genes and the socio, economic structures in which we are reared and are living induce us to adapt to criminal behavior. Further, science also says that the interaction between genes and the environment bring out the criminal traits from within us. Only genes do not establish the criminal behavior of an individual. If the person with the inherited genes of criminality is exposed to the same atmosphere of iniquity, there is every possibility for a person to adopt the crime in his or her life.
19th century Italian physician, Cesare Lombroso, popular for skull measurements showed that the brains are of small size in criminals then the brains of law-abiding citizens. (Leo and Castronovo, Online Edition) He clearly showed that it is the nurture and not nature that brings about the criminal behavior among persons. And now two professors of Harvard University echoing their views said that no human being on this Earth is born a criminal, but these are the socioeconomic factors, which are main culprits and there is strong evidence to prove this point. It also came to light that on an average, criminals differ from non-criminals in physique, intelligence and personality. Wilson, a professor of government and author of Thinking About Crime (1975) also says that “There is overwhelming evidence first that crime runs in families and secondly that early childhood precursors of crime seem clear.” (Leo and Castronovo, Online Edition) It was also said that Criminologist ignored the low Intelligent Quotient (IQ) also a factor responsible for criminal behavior.
Brunner, Nelen, Breakefield, Ropers, and van Oost conducted studies involving large Dutch family. In the study they found that a point mutation in the chemical known as neuro-chemical, monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) in the structural gene in the brain would be responsible for the aggressive criminal behavior among males in that family. These males have selective MAOA deficiency that reduces the concentrations of 5-hydroxyindole-3-acetic acid (5-HIAA) in cerebrospinal fluid. It was found that if 5-HIAA is reduced, it might lead to impulsive behavior. Though this study proved the influence of genes and it is very strong evidence as no further studies were undertaken to show if other families of similar nature too are giving similar results. (Jones, Online Edition)
Neuro-chemicals like monoamine oxidase (MOA), epinephrine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine stimulate nature and behavioral pattern in particular areas of the brain. (Jones, Online Edition)
Researchers and psychologists delved upon the personality traits and disorders to bring about the reason behind the individuals anti-social or criminal behavior. These traits begin to become visible since child-hold. The disorders that are inherently available in childhood like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Conduct Disorder (CD), and Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) can be seen when a child attains adulthood and is easily seen by their argumentativeness, noncompliance, and irritable nature. As an adult, they will begin to indulge in all anti social activities like stealing, involve in defacement, substance abuse, and develop aggressiveness towards peers. Initially the child will show the sign of Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) and if it remains it will lead to Conduct Disorder (CD) but this is also true that not all children diagnosed with ODD will develop into CD. It has been proved beyond doubt that more than seventy to ninety percent of offenders have been showing aggressiveness when young children. (Jones, Online Edition)
Dann Charles from New Scientist Magazine reported a furry that aroused as a result of the conference that was scheduled to held on the Topic “Genetics and Crime”, planned at the University of Maryland. This whole concept of linking genetics to Crime is absurd according to the critics. The statistics showed that maximum number of violent crimes occurring in America are among the urban blacks, therefore any conference or any theory emphasizing on the biology and heredity is taken by the Urban black community as a direct hit or direct blame on their race and their genetic makeup. This according to Walters is a sheer case of putting an effort indirectly to spread and practice racism. (Charles, 8) Critics alleged that this concept of genetics might pave the way for the genetic markers, which might discover the people who are disposed to the violent ways of the criminals, and many alleged political motives against the propagation of this whole concept. According to Troy Duster, a sociologist at the University of California at Berkeley, this whole relationship developed between race and genetics has been perceived just as a public perception, but not by any science. For this topic even Duster and Joan McCord, professor of criminal justice at the University of Pennsylvania, showed the importance of social behavior more than any inherited biological causes. (Charles, 8)
Apparently true, Scientific facts reveal children of criminal parents are born criminals but the society is a mixture of paradoxes and this world is a witness to the number of examples to show these believers of genes theory that the children born of law-abiding parents have become hard core criminals.
The real culprit is the society or the adverse circumstances, and also the children grown up in the environment of quarrels and abuses in their homes between their father and mother are more prone to anti-social elements and get attracted towards them easily. They are made to believe that these belligerent ways of behavior are normal and moreover they can show their power in front of their peers and a sense of pride to overpower others with their aggressive attitude.
Some theories like general arousal theory of criminality suggests that interaction between genetic as well as environment influences together are responsible for criminal behavior. Eysenck, a psychologist dealing with personality formed a model depending on three factors, psychoticism, extraversion, and neuroticism, which he referred as PEN model (Jones, Online Edition). Psychoticism deals with the aggressiveness, impersonal, impulsive, cold, antisocial, and non-empathetic attitudes. Extraversion brings out those who have sociable, lively, active, sensation-seeking, carefree, dominant, and assertive nature and finally neuroticism deals with anxious, depressed, low self-esteem, irrational, moody, emotional, and tense feelings. Freud (1856-1939), conjectured the concept that the “All humans that contributed to criminal behavior was faulty identification by a child with her or his parents. The improperly socialized child may develop a personality disturbance that causes her or him to direct antisocial impulses inward or outward. The child who directs them outward becomes a criminal, and the child that directs them inward becomes a neurotic”. (Flowe, Online edition)
The Constitutional Learning Theory by James Q. Wilson and Richard J. Herrnstein took biological and social learning concepts to elucidate the potential causes of criminality. The proportion of the gains and losses that the people face in their day- to -day lives induce them to adhere to the criminal act and severs the human personality. If people feel they are getting profit from their criminal activities more than the recurring loss, then it becomes a good chance for them to take to criminal act. In addition to it Time discounting and equity too entice the people to take a short cut route of getting richer soon. It is also a means for the people to pour out their frustration arising out of the social abuse. The poorly socialized less intelligence children are also most vulnerable. (Flowe, Online Edition)
All in all, there is a deep and complex relationship between the genetics and environment that create the seductive force behind the criminal behavior. There are strong points to prove that the genes inherited in the individuals again make the person prone to crimes due to the influence of environmental factors. The stressful environmental situations could be the reason for the disorders occurring in genes like serotonin and dopamine.
It is a fact that adults have more controlling power on their environment but it is also true that inherent qualities of their parents are also quite visible in this day-to-day behavior. If his parents are or had been indulging in any law breaking activity, it ought to travel in the genes to show these very traits during adulthood stages of his life.
It is a fact that no child born from mother’s womb is a criminal. As it is commonly said that Children are gifts of God and if they are gifts of God then how they can be criminals. As and as child begins to get exposed to the world outside their protective domain, they begin to visualize the world with the world of the adults and there is strife between the childhood and adulthood. If a child gets conducive environment where he can feel the love prevailing even in the air of his dwellings, he would grow into a responsible citizen. The genes of the criminal soul that he was carrying may not be able to give him a chance to get attracted towards crime but if the child even though having genes of law abiding and responsible parents put into the world of criminals, there is every chance for him to follow their footsteps.
Genetics and environment factors are so intertwined together that it is impossible to give concrete answer to the question? Yet in the highly technological world where we are staying, creating the overall nature and environment conducive for every one to lead a peaceful, healthy and wealthy life can mold the nature of these delinquent genes.
Bailey, Ronald. “Born to Be Wild? The role of genes in antisocial behavior” Internet (August 7, 2002) Available: http://www.reason.com/news/show/34855.html
Charles, Dan. “Fury over theory that criminals are born not made” New Scientist magazine, 27 February 1993, page 8.
Flowe, Heather. “Psychological Theories of Crime” Internet. (Last updated on December 11, 1996) Available: http://psy.ucsd.edu/~hflowe/psych.htm, 10 October 2007
Jones, Caitlin M. “Genetic and Environmental Influences on Criminal Behavior” Internet (Last modified February 2005) Available: http://www.personalityresearch.org/papers/jones.html, 10 October 2007
Leo, John & Castronovo, Valenice. Are Criminals Born, Not Made? Internet. Available:
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,960148-2,00.html, 10 October 2007
Cite this What Causes Criminal Behavior?
What Causes Criminal Behavior?. (2016, Jul 10). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/what-causes-criminal-behavior/