Theories of behavior in criminal law the nurture versus nature theory

When a child is born in a family where there are actors, there is a high likelihood that the child will also become an actor if another child is brought up in a family where people are criminals, the child will also pick up the behavior and become a criminal later in life. This brings a controversy in determining what is responsible for causing criminality in an individual. Is it genetic or is it due to the environment they grow in Determining what exactly constitutes criminal behavior envelops a range of activities. However, in the theories of individual behavior in criminology, researchers concentrate on the wider context of antisocial behavior (Jones, 2005).

The research which has been done in the past has come up with three major definitions of antisocial behavior which in turn explains an individual persons character and its role in the formation of criminal behavior (Jones, 2005). The first definition equates antisocial behavior with delinquency and criminalitysince both of the acts involve engagement in criminal behavior. Secondly, antisocial behavior is defined by the criteria used to diagnose personality disorderssuch as the antisocial personality disorder since it is related to criminal activity. Finally, the individual antisocial behavior is measured by examining behavior traits which could be influential in the unlawful behavior of most individuals. Traits like impulsivity and aggressiveness are among the most investigated traits for individual criminal behavior. Therefore, individual criminal behavior in this regard, has been associated with both the environment influences as well as the genetic makeup of an individual (Jones, 2005).

Among the many studies that have been done on determining biological criminal behavior that results from heredity, the study of an individuals personality traits or disorders yields more evidence. The personality traits do not show up when a person is grown up, rather they start to be evident right from childhood. They include disorders like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Conduct Disorder (CD) and Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD). During early childhood, ODD characterizes itself with noncompliance, argumentativeness and irritability. If not treated, this disorder develops as the child grows and worsens the child starts lying, stealing, and engaging in substance abuse and vandalism. This disorder, if sustained, results to the development of CD in the same child, although not among all children suffering from ODD (Jones, 2005).

 ADHD on the other hand is linked with the failure to maintain attention and focus on one issue at a time and impulsivity. This is what is summarized as hyperactivity. Children with ADHD usually lack the ability of analyzing the consequences of their actions and cannot learn from their past behavior. The future of an individual is predicted to result in crime if the both ADHD and CD coexist. Since these disorders are part of the genetic makeup of an individual, it is concluded that such a person is biologically a criminal (Jones, 2005).

Environmental factors on the other hand also contribute to the formation of a criminal behavior in an individual. Here, the environmental factors include the peers or the family where a person spends most of their lifetime. Family factors like education, poverty, family structure and parenting practices among the key risk factors. Children, who grow up in places where poverty, child abuse, poor communication and parenting are prevalent, develop criminal tendencies. Others involve the influence by teenage peers and friends (Jones, 2005).

However, the theory of Rational Choice in criminology also seems to be very convincing in its ideas of what is the causation of criminal behavior. Developed by the classical theorists, the theory holds that criminal behavior can be easily controlled and appreciated as the result of human nature that is common in all people. People are assumed to be entirely hedonistic, acting in response to their own personal interests, and capable of considering the path of action which is strictly in their own personal interest This theory concludes that the cause of criminal behavioral is a personal, calculated decision made by an individual to benefit himself, after considering the various risk factors involved. Therefore, people are not criminals by chance, but by choice (Bolcke, 2010).


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