The key arguments in the nature versus nurture debate within criminology

If a child grows up in a household of actors, there are high chances that he or she will become and actor or actress in the same case, if a child is born and raised in a family where there are criminals, chances are high that he or she will turn out to be a criminal (Chase articles, n. d.). What explains these proven facts Is it just because the members of the family are actorscriminals that the child might also turn out to be an actor a criminal or is it in the fact that the child grew up seeing people acting committing crimes that over time, they developed such tendency There probably is no other question which is as fundamental to the existence of human beings as the one posed by the debate commonly known as the Nature Versus Nurture Debate (Gander, 2003). This paper will investigate the key arguments in the nature versus nurture debate, by examining the role played by each of them in determining the criminal behaviour of an individual.

For a long time over the past, it was held that nature did not have any role in shaping the behaviour of human beings and that a person was capable of getting socialized or educated to survive in whatever kind of an environment or culture. Today, this belief has been forcefully as well as directly challenged through the new mind science, the evolutionary psychology (Gander, 2003). The Nature -Versus -Nurture is a scientific debate whose major source is the questions whether it is the genetic make up of a person or the environment that dictate a persons behavioural characteristics. In other words, to which extent are human feelings, ideas or behaviour a factor of innate characteristics and to what extent are they learned (Gander, 2003). Instead of perceiving human mind as being a mysterious blank slate or black box, the evolutionary psychologists perceive it as representing a physical organ which has evolved over time so as to process given specific kinds of information in specific ways which enables human beings to survive only in given types of environments or cultures. Criminal behaviour is always a key focus of psychologists because of the relatedness with the old nature versus nurture debate is it as a result of genetic makeup or environment in which the individual is brought up that some people are criminals (Gander, 2003).

The controversy between nature and nurture
After conducting several researchers that were aimed at separating controversy between environment and genes and their contribution to criminal tendencies, many researchers have come to the conclusion that the two factors are to some relative degrees responsible for the criminal behaviour in some people (Sage organization, 2005). This evidence was arrived at from several twin, adoption, family and laboratory studies and experiments. The researches also found out that mostly, it is the interaction between environment and genes that determines criminal behaviour. However, the outcome of the majority of the studies carried out (which will discussed later in this paper) showed higher connection between environment and crime than did the studies on the genes. This does not nonetheless imply that genes are less crucial in formation of criminal behaviour (Gander, 2003).

The measurement and dimension of criminal behaviour
To understand the contribution of the environment and genes and their influences on the making of a criminal, it is necessary to first determine what is referred as criminal and to which dimension it is referred so. Defining what exactly constitutes crime and criminal behaviour may comprise a range of activities and as such, vandalism, general defiance to the societal norms, robbery, theft and substance abuse. Researchers have the tendency of focussing on antisocial behaviour as the gauge for criminal behaviour in the society (Jones, 2005).

According to Gander (2003), social behaviour can be measured using three ways. The first one is to equate criminality to delinquency because both involve criminal acts. While criminality could result to conviction, arrest or imprisonment for the adults, delinquency results to juveniles being involved in unlawful activities. Secondly, criminal behaviour or antisocial behaviour can be measured by a criterion for which diagnoses personality disorders in a person. Finally, is can be measured through the examination of personality traits which might influence criminal actions in a person. In this dimension, the presence of traits such as impulsivity and aggressiveness are good gauges of the potentiality of criminality in an individual (Gander, 2003).

Structural criminology The effects of environment on criminal behaviour
Families with weak bonds and improper communication have a correlation with the childrens development and high tendency of aggressive or criminal behavior. In addition, families which are more financially challenged and possibly have many children, in addition to those who are not used to punishing their children, consistently have a larger likelihood of encouraging the development of delinquent or antisocial behavior (Jones, 2005). Another gauge of potential antisocial behavior is neglect and abuse in children. Statistics show that many children are fifty percent at a higher risk of being involved in criminal activities, if by any means they were abused or neglected during earlier years. Though research appears to recognize heritability influences as the stronger in determining adult criminal behavior, for adolescents and children the environment where they grew is a more important reason for influencing criminal behavior (Jones, 2005).

Another major factor in development of delinquent or antisocial behavior in teenagers is the peer groups.  During Pre School, children who are aggressive to others are condemned and reprimanded due to their antisocial behavior. This results in poor relationships with the peers and makes such children form the habit of relating with only the others with the same behavior as a way of searching for belonging. These kinds of relationships are likely to develop right from childhood, teenage and probably up to adulthood (Jones, 2005). The same tendencies when carried up to teenage and adulthood generate an environment which promotes influences towards aggressive and even criminal behavior. Social theory of learning explains the effect of the environment on the behavior of a child. According to the theory, the antisocial, criminal or aggressive behavior of a child is as a result of what they observe their parents doing, and since they consider their parents as their role model in behavior shaping, they interpret the aggressiveness or criminality to be the ideal normal kind of behavior for them (Jones, 2005).

Biological criminology The effects of the genetic makeup on criminal behaviour
The role played by the innate genes in an individual in the forming of criminal behavior in later years of their life has been explained using two basic elements which are innate. These elements constitute the neuro-chemicals and the personality disorderstraits (Lila, 2006). This is because these two elements are not developed during a persons lifetime but they are rather part of their genetic makeup right from conception. The neurochemicals are accountable for activating behavioral tendencies and patterns in definite regions of the human brain. Several efforts by scientists have attempted to find out the role played by neurochemicals towards influencing antisocial or criminal behavior (Lila, 2006).

There are several elements of the neurochemicals which include MOA (Monoamine Oxidase), norepinephrine epinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. MAO (Monoamine oxidase) is the specific enzyme related to generation of criminal behavior. Explicitly, low MAO action leads to lack of inhibition which results to aggression and impulsivity (Powell, 2009). MAO is linked with several neurochemicals that have an association with antisocial and criminal behavior serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine are all metabolized through MOA. Serotonin is the neurochemical responsible for personality traits such as anxiety bipolar disorder and depression. The same neurochemical has a role in the development of brain in addition to a certain disorder within the brain which is likely to cause an enhancement in impulsivity and aggressiveness (Powell, 2009).

According to Powell (2009), low serotonin levels are associated with emotional aggression and impulsive behavior. Furthermore, most children suffering from a disorder called Conduct Disorder (explained later) have very low serotonin in the blood. Therefore, serotonin has a high relation with aggressive behavior in children and consequently the probability of criminal behavior later in life. In addition, dopamine is also a neorochemical linked to pleasure in addition to being mainly connected with aggression in individuals. The activation of predatory and affective aggression is achieved through dopamine (Powell, 2009).

In recent studies on the factors influencing criminal behaviour, personality disorders as well as traits have become very relevant. These traits are observable right from childhood. There are three major personality disorders seen in children which are linked to the development of criminal behaviour in their later years in life (Bright Hub, 2010). These include conduct disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and opposition defiance disorder. In children, opposition defiance disorder (ODD) results to noncompliance, argumentativeness and irritability (Bright Hub, 2010). As a child with this disorder develops, these characteristics become worse, with these kinds of children starting to steal, lie, engaging in drug and substance abuse, vandalism as well as developing abnormal aggression to their peers. If the disorder remains, it later leads to conduct disorder (CD) in majority but not all the earlier victims of ODD (Jones, 2005).

The Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) on the other hand is a characteristic of lack of ability of a child to pay attention on one issue. Children suffering from this disorder lack the capability to anticipate and analyze the consequences and as well as inability to learn from previous actions (Anderson  Bakker, 2004). Children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are likely to also suffer from opposition defiant disorder and conduct disorder as they continue to grow. The cases become worse in the event that the ADHD is concurrent with CD this is what mostly leads to children becoming criminals in future when they are grown. CD shows up with the features of a persons defiance to societal norms. As behaviours of children diagnosed with ADHD or ODD become more established, the subsequent logical diagnosis of disorder is CD (Anderson  Bakker, 2004).

Significantly, ADHD ODD, and CD are high risk factors for the development of another disorder ASPD (Antisocial Personality Disorder). This disorder is diagnosed after a person attains eighteen years of age when they show persistent disrespect towards the rights of other people. ASPD is related to an increased possibility of criminal actions. Therefore, it is essential that these kinds of personality disorders are diagnosed as well as treated early enough since they are responsible for generating a breed of criminal in the society (UDEL, 2008).

The interaction between biological and structural criminology
To investigate the role played by the environment in which a person grows on the characteristic behaviours of that person, the scientific researchers came up with the Twin, Adoption and Family Studies. Twin studies are carried out on comparing the monozygotic (MZ) or the identical twins and their levels of criminal behaviour with the dizygotic (DZ) or the fraternal twins and their levels of criminal behaviour. If the results of the studies indicate that a rate of higher concordance exists in the MZ twins than the DZ twins for criminal behaviour, it is concluded that the influence is genetic (Kimball, 2002).

For instance, this test was performed on 32 MZ twins who were reared in different environments. These twins had been taken up shortly after delivery by a person who was not a relative. The outcome illustrated that for the childhood as well as adult rebellious antisocial behaviour, a high extent of heritability exhibited (Jones, 2005). The study proved that in the particular case, the criminal behaviour was devoid of the culture or environment in which the twins were raised. In another incidence, a certain researcher carried out a study on 85 myzogotic twins and 147 dyzogotic twins and discovered that a higher rate of concordance existed in the myzogotic twins. After ten years, police records were checked for the twins and it was found that 54 of the liability of the twins to crime resulted from heritability (Jones, 2005).

The adoption studies are crucial in investigating the connection between adopted kids and their adoptive and biological parents since they take up different nature from nurture (Sage Organisation, 2005). In this situation, an adoption survey was performed in Iowa that sought to examine the responsibility of genes on the criminal behaviour. The researchers established that in comparison to the same studys control group, adopted individuals, who had been born to imprisoned female criminals, exhibited higher rates of unlawful convictions when they were adults (Mark, 2002).

Family studies comprise the third form of tools used to evaluate the association between environmental influences and genetics on antisocial or behaviour criminal. Children go through both the influence of parents genes as well the environment where they grow up from (Mark, 2002). Consequently, it is hard to allocate which of their behaviours and conduct were influenced either of the factors. The presence of a genetic predisposition of criminal behaviour cannot predict that a person will become a criminal, but if the same person is raised in an environment where crime is very prevalent there are very high chances that they will become criminals. This is the major interaction that exists between the environmental influences and the genetic makeup in formation of criminal behaviour (Mark, 2002).

Studies and numerous numbers of researches conducted by scientific researchers have proved that it is hard to separate the effect of the environment from that of the genes since they both work together but in relative degrees (Chase articles, n. d). However, the contribution by the environment in which a person grew seems to have produced more positive results in criminality of an individual. The researchers have therefore come into conclusion that the environmental factors form the element of tendencies to criminality that cannot be explained through the genetic makeup of the person.


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