The debate between nature vs. nurture in regards to crime and delinquency is a long and heated one. Are some people really born criminals, or is our society and the environment and experiences children are brought up in the reason they become delinquent? Throughout this essay I am going to look at both sides of the argument, and offer an insight into the theoretical and sociological approaches surrounding this nature vs. nurture debate.
The first step in looking at the nature side of the debate would be to look at the actual genetics of criminals. This is an area that has been, and still is, widely researched, often coming up with varied results. Here I’ll look at the actual biology of genetics, and the alleged abnormal gene, present in some criminals. For example, a study in 1993 identified an X chromosome mutation (associated with mild retardation and aggressive, violent criminal behavior) concentrated in one large Dutch family. This apparent mutation causes complete deficiencies of the enzyme monoamine oxidase (maoa), which metabolises the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline. David Goldman, a geneticist at the National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, states:
“men who possess this abnormal gene may typically engage in impulsive behavior, but the time, place, type, and seriousness of their crimes (which include exhibitionism, attempted rape, and arson) have been diverse and
unpredictable” (Powledge, T.M., Vol 46:1, January 1996)
Although there does seem to be some evidence that crime and genetics are related, the findings prove to be unpredictable. That is not to say that there have not been breakthroughs, and other areas of human biology have proved to be useful also. Adrian Rain, of the University of Southern California showed CAT scans comparing the brain activity of 42 convicted murderers, with those of 42 people with no apparent criminal traits (or convictions). The group of murderers tended to have less brain activity in the pre-frontal cortex area of the brain, than those in the ‘no criminal traits’ category. These results were consistent with the findings of previous research that a damaged pre frontal cortex can lead to impulsive, often aggressive behavior. It seems that in some research cases the results have proved that there is a link to the ‘nature’ idea of the Positivist theory.
Cesare Lombroso is regarded as the founder of the Positivist theory, and the notion of the born criminal. The Positivist School of Criminology rejected the Classical School’s idea that all crime resulted from a choice that could be made by anyone. They argued that the most serious crimes were committed by individuals who were ‘primitive’ or ‘atavistic’. Using techniques of psychiatry, physical anthropology, and anthropometry, they claimed to have evidence that some criminal behavior was biologically determined rather than opportunistic, or planned out. From this followed the idea that these criminals should have access to...