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Is Criminality More Influenced By Genes Or Environment?

1460 words - 6 pages

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 24). One study looked at thirty-two identical twins reared apart and adopted by non-relatives a short time after birth. The results show there was a high degree of hereditability with both childhood and adult antisocial behaviors (Joseph 180). This study was of particular importance because it examined the factors of separate environments. Another researcher studied eighty-five identical and 147 fraternal twin pairs. It found a higher concordance rate for the identical twin pairs. Ten years later, after checking the police records of these same twins, two other researchers concluded that there was a fifty-four percent hereditability of liability to crime (Joseph 181). The final analysis is that genetic factors are more influential on criminal behavior than environmental factors.Adoption studies better separate environmental and genetic effects. They test the hypotheses that parents with a predisposition to antisocial behavior may pass on...

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