In 1909 the father of modern criminology, an Italian by the name of Cesare Lombroso made a series of skull measurements which led him to believe that criminals had smaller sized brains as compared to law abiding citizens (Wolfgang, 1961 361-391). Although, this contention was eventually disproven, Lombroso did succeed in bringing science one of its most important contributions. He took away the focus from crimes and put it where it belonged, towards the criminal mind. While there are several debates which still rage on today regarding the nature vs.
nurture issue of the criminal element. There has been no true answer to whether criminals are simply a product of their environment or are simply victims of genetics. This topic will attempt to answer these questions. The first question of course begins by discussing which factors influence the nature vs. nurture rule. When Lombroso first wrote his book not only did he include anthropomorphic measurements of several subjects as a basis for his findings. His book also included several etiological factors which were common to criminals of that era.
When Lombroso was conducting his studies he found that the etiological factors which contributed to the increased crime rate consisted of weather, race, civilization, alcohol, genetics, age, sex and moral education. The man spoke of several factors in the environment which affected the crime rate just as it did illnesses in human beings. He found that the highest crime rates would often occur in the hottest months of the years with little variation in other seasons and race playing an important role.
He also found that criminals are usually between 20 and 30 years of age and begin to show criminal tendencies after puberty sets in. He also found that women were less responsible than men for the crime rate due to their protected status in society. Finally, he found evidence to support the fact that illiteracy is the main breeder of crime in urban areas and that various aspects of civilization such as economic stability were an important factor in deciding the incidence of violent crimes.
This finally brings us to his most controversial notion that although there are many factors which may cause individuals to turn to crime, the true basis for criminality in society is hereditary rather than factorial. In order to prove his point he gives an example of a boy in Pavia prison that committed murder at the age of twelve and had been imprisoned for stealing on six different occasions. He also had two brothers who were thieves, a mother who received stolen goods and two sisters who were prostitutes.
He also provided statistics which showed that 28% of convicted minors came from families suspected of being criminals or disreputable in the eyes of society and 26% came from families with known ties to the criminal element (Lombroso, Gibson, & Rafter, 2006 114-134). So the question that these findings eventually lead us to is what does affect the level of criminality in an individual is it genetics or the environment. Years of research into the subject has led several prominent scientific minds to believe that it is through a combination of both, through genetics and environmental factors that criminality is born.
This has been discussed in detail by Michael Rutter in his book; he says that to consider that the action of one gene can decide the entire makeup of an individual is a far too simple explanation in any disorder. He says that it is important to give consideration to the genes in the background as well as the parts of the gene which are non-coding, i. e. do not produce proteins. What this means is that the expression of genes is not only dependant on the characteristic of that gene but how factors in the environment can affect how and when such a gene expresses itself.
Even the expression itself can be influenced by factors which decide the lasting effects it has on the individual and those around him (Rutter, 2007 178-196). Even while citing this conclusion however, the author has considered a few alternate possibilities that act as exceptions to this rule. One such exception is if the genes are so strong that they may dominate over any environmental factors presents except in those cases where the environmental effects are extremely prevalent. The second is when an extreme level of environmental interaction can overthrow any genetic effects.
The third occurs in the case if either environmental or genetic factors show variability leading to the effectiveness of either of the two environments. One study conducted shows that children who were more susceptible to being anti social or dependant on drugs were more likely to have parents who were insensitive to their needs. This would eventually lead to have much more unruly form of behavior later on in life. Evidence was also found which showed that children who were anti-social often elicited this form of behavior from parents leading to their negative behavior.
A study known as the Dunedin longitudinal study found that children who exhibited this form of personality disorder had low levels of monoamine oxidase A (MAOA). A high level of activity of the MAOA gene has been found to show less incidence of antisocial conduct among children (Rutter, 2007 178-196). Another book written by James Q. Wilson spoke about the roe, children who grew up to be criminals are often emotionally unstable in their youth as compared to non offenders. They also found links between body types, IQs and personality types and the susceptibility of committing a crime.
Their contention was that individuals more likely to commit crimes have lower IQs than other people in society. It must be considered however, that the authors acknowledge that not all criminals have a lower IQs; however, the lower IQ does leave them susceptible to committing crimes which have immediate rewards such as rapes or muggings. Thus, they are also more likely to be caught than their smarter brethren. They also found that criminals often have either a muscular body type or a more linear body type as compared to the rest of the population.
They also found that criminals tend to have a dominant and energetic personality type which makes them unable to accept the rules of society as when compared to normal individuals who are far more restrained and accepting of such regulations. They also found that such individuals have a much harder time being conscientious of their decisions than other individuals (Wilson & Herrnstein, 1998). However, all of the factors above still do not give the true reason why criminals choose to commit crimes rather than be proper, functioning members of society.
The true reason behind this is simple. They base their decisions to commit crimes on a risk and reward basis. They make the choice to commit crimes rather than being law abiding citizens because they see the rewards of such an act to be far greater than the risk. Although it is true that there are environmental factors that cause crime are still prevalent and need to be dealt with, there is no true way for government to deal with all of them in a feasible manner.
They cannot change the values instilled in children, nor can they ensure proper parental support for all children (Wilson, Thinking About Crime , 1975). If the majority of crimes are committed by young males 20 to 30 years of age should the government ensure that such males fitting this criterion are executed in order to ensure the rule of law? It must also be taken into consideration that the title of crime and criminal are only attributed to certain individuals and situations based upon the considerations of a governmental body.
It must be taken into consideration in regards to the risk/reward ratio, whether the government that the society lives under truly has respect for individual rights, needs and privileges or it merely imposes these laws without any consideration for the personal requirements of individuals. For example, if there is increased rate of unemployment in the country, then the crime rate for that nation will increase as a direct result of its effects on the population.
A research paper which combined findings from two studies, one which looked at the genetic susceptibility for identical twins and fraternal twins to commit crimes and the other concerns genetic susceptibility in children who are adopted. The study found that there was a greater chance of identical twins committing crimes as when compared to fraternal twins. With the rate of heritable criminality for identical twins being almost double in comparison. In the case of adoption studies the research differentiated the parents according to them possessing environmental and genetic factors.
The children who were adopted were confirmed to have heritable characteristics. While the parents who did not have any environmental or genetic factors showed only 13. 5% of their adopted children having criminal records. While those with environmental but not genetic factors showed 14. 7% rate and those with only genetic factors showed a 20% rate and finally those with both factors showed a 24. 5% rate for conviction. The adoption studies also shows that though there is a genetic basis for delinquency, there is no genetic basis for these children growing up to be psychopaths or committing violent behavior (Raine, 1993 47-49).
From all the evidence shown above it cannot be denied that both environmental and genetic factors are not mutually exclusive nor are they individually responsible in creating conditions which breed criminals. It can however be seen that there are various factors which form the foundation for the adoption of crime by individuals. Child abuse, intelligence, temperament, physique all play in important role in affecting the foundation which creates this form of behavior. It cannot be denied however, that not all forms of crime have a genetic basis behind them.
That there are unknown factors which can lead individuals to committing violent acts not explained by hereditary causes. It is the responsibility of government bodies to ensure that such factors are diminished so that these individuals can have the opportunity to have productive lives. References Lombroso, C. , Gibson, M. , & Rafter, N. H. (2006). Criminal man 114-134. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. Raine, A. (1993). Genetics and Crime. In A. Raine, The Psychopathology of crime: Criminal Behavior as a clinical disorder (pp. 47-49). San Diego: Academic Press. Rutter, M. (2007).
Genes and Behavior: Nature-nurture Interplay Explained 178-196. New York: Wiley-Blackwell. Wilson, J. Q. (1975). Thinking About Crime . New York: Basic Books, Inc. Wilson, J. Q. , & Herrnstein, R. J. (1998). Crime & Human Nature: The Definitive Study of the Causes of Crime. New York: Free Press. Wolfgang, M. E. (1961). Pioneers in Criminology: Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909). The Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science Vol. 52 No. 4 , 361-391 .