Is Criminality More Influenced by Genes or Environment?

Essay by therealgentleman22College, UndergraduateA+, February 2010

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December 16th, 2009Criminal behavior has always been a focal point for many. Psychologists examine a person's environment and genetics when studying criminal behavior. Webster's online dictionary defines genetics as the science concerned with the passage of traits from parents to offspring. Is it the effect of the environment or a person's genetic makeup that makes someone a criminal? Recently, psychologists, psychiatrists and neuroscientists have conducted extensive studies regarding this debate. The result is that criminal behavior is driven more by genes than environment; especially when one considers the in-depth studies of twins, adoption, family history and laboratory experiments.

In 2001, psychologist Jay Joseph declared that genes were fully responsible for criminal activity. He went further to state that criminals could be identified by their psychological features (180). As surprising as this may sound, other scientists have agreed. In 2003, criminal anthropologist Cesare Lombroso's claim was that "criminals represent a particular physical type, distinctively different from those of non-criminals" (131).

In other words, he believed genes were the sole factor contributing to criminal behavior. In addition, these studies suggested that there are ways to predict who will become career criminals by using measures of biological function.

To fully understand the nature of how genes and environment influence criminal behavior, one must first know what constitutes criminal behavior. It ranges from being incarcerated to antisocial behavior, such as personality disorders which the research will prove are more influenced by genetics than a person's environment.

First, psychologists refer to studies of twins, where a comparison is made between identical twins and fraternal twins regarding the rate of criminal behavior. If the outcome of these twin studies shows a higher concordance rate of identical than fraternal twins in criminal behavior, then it can be assumed that there is a genetic influence (Mednick and Tehrani...