Examining Individual Dna Of Criminal Offenders Criminology Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Scientists have known for years that traits such as eye colour and hair colour are determined by specific genes encoded in each human cell. The Nature Theory takes things a step further to say that more abstract traits such as intelligence, personality, aggression, and sexual orientation are also encoded in an individual's DNA. The search for "behavioural" genes is the source of constant debate. Many fear that genetic arguments might be used to excuse criminal acts or justify divorce. The most debated issue pertaining to the nature theory is the existence of a "gay gene," pointing to a genetic component to sexual orientation. An April, 1998 article in LIFE Magazine, "Were You Born That Way" by George Howe Colt, claimed that "new studies show it's mostly in your genes." If genetics didn't play a part, then fraternal twins, reared under the same conditions, would be alike, regardless of differences in their genes. But, while studies show they do more closely resemble each other than do non-twin brothers and sisters, they also show these same striking similarities when reared apart - as in similar studies done with the nurture theory.

The Nurture Theory - Environment

While not discounting that genetic tendencies may exist, supporters of the nurture theory believe they ultimately don't matter - that our behavioural aspects originate only from the environmental factors of our upbringing. Studies on infant and child temperament have revealed the most crucial evidence for nurture theories. American psychologist John Watson, best known for his controversial experiments with a young orphan named Albert, demonstrated that the acquisition of a phobia could be explained by classical conditioning. A strong proponent of environmental learning, he said: Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select...regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations and race of his ancestors. Harvard psychologist B. F. Skinner's early experiments produced pigeons that could dance, do figure eights, and play tennis. Today known as the father of behavioural science, he eventually went on to prove that human behaviour could be conditioned in much the same way as animals. A study in New Scientist suggests that sense of humour is a learned trait, influenced by family and cultural environment, and not genetically determined. If environment didn't play a part in determining an individual's traits and behaviours, then identical twins should, theoretically, be exactly the same in all respects, even if reared apart. But a number of studies show that they are never exactly alike, even though they are remarkably similar in most respects. So, was the way we behave engrained in us before we were born? Or has it developed over time in response to our experiences? Researchers on all sides of the nature v nurture debate agree that the link between a gene and a behaviour is not the same as cause and effect. While a gene may increase the likelihood that you'll behave in a particular way, it does not make people do things. Which means that we still get to choose who we'll be when we grow up. Our presentation was to identify which explanation of criminological theory regarding the nature v nurture debate best explains criminal behaviour. We looked upon individual positivism, sociological positivism and a radical criminological perspective. Individual positivism includes both psychological and biological. Psychological included such theories as Sigmund Freud who suggested his psycho dynamic theory, identified two different models of criminal behaviour and psychoanalytical approach, emphasis on an individuals disturbed psychic development, and weak conscious often the result of childhood. John Bowlby suggested, maternal deprivation, that criminal behaviour occurs when a child has not had a secure relationship with main carer. Bowlby did a study on 44 juveniles convicted of stealing he found that 17 of them had been separated from their mothers in the first 5years of their childhood. Our conclusion for psychological is that a criminal mind is due to emotional and dysfunction childhood, crime is often because of the conflicts and problems within our mind, psychiatric intervention may well resolve their unconscious conflicts resulting in a crime free life a problem with this theory is that it does not take into consideration the fact of regardless of psychological issues offenders still make the choice to commit crimes. Biological included such theories as Cesare Lombrosso he suggested that humans were born criminals and suggested that criminals possessed certain physical traits, defects. Twin studies is an interesting theory as identical twins share the exact same DNA while fraternal twins only share half and they are no more closely related on a genetic level than ordinary siblings. Both kinds of twins, however, share a womb, a family and a cultural environment. Comparisons between the two types can thus tease out the extent to which inheritance is important. Sociological positivism suggests that crime is due to the environment and nothing else. Genetics do not play a part in people committing crime as if one is never introduced to crime; one will not know what crime is and will probably not attempt to break the law. Theories included the founding father of sociology Emile Durkheim who introduced his disorganisation theory, he suggested that crime is a normal phenomenon which occurs in all societies. Social solidarity is maintained through crime and punishment. It is impossible for any society to be crime free because if certain acts of crime were not committed something else would be found to exist, the crime would simply change form. His theories led to the Chicago School who focused on the society as the force behind criminal behaviour. They suggested that that criminality was the result of society and not the individual, that crime was linked to social disorganisation and that crime was an evolutionary process of adaption. The Chicago school developed the theory that cities did not randomly grow but were predetermined according to natural social processes. Radical criminology tell us that for a multitude of reasons, it is not really possible to control crime. They suggested that crime and deviance is seen as an example of the diversity and human behaviour, not attributed to pathology, crime is seen as a social construct imposed by the rich to maintain their hierarchical power. Hall et al suggested that the key subject was no longer simply 'crime and deviance' but was a critical understanding of social order and the power to criminalise. He uses mugging as an example of social construct; media constructed the idea of violence and property crime in the streets as mugging, mainly concentrating on black youths as the cause. This concept of social constructs can be seen in Cohen's study on moral panics and folk devils. Crime itself can be seen as a ration choice. Radical criminology also includes the labelling theory which is societies reaction towards criminals. Theories included Becker who suggested no behaviour is deviant until deemed so by the labelling of a power structure for example the police. Lemert suggested that the problem when a label is attaches itself to an individual and they identify with the label, resulting in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Braithwaite positive use of labelling was his 're-integrative shaming' this was not to stigmatise, but to allow them to realise the negative impact of their action on society and individuals to encourage others to forgive and accept them back into society.

Mark Henderson of The Times newspaper wrote an interesting piece on the nature v's nurture debate his article discusses the conclusion that it cannot be either nature or nurture but both together as with both debates there are still exceptions such as socio-paths and paedophiles as a label cannot be attached to these kind of criminals. He wrote about the problems with both debates for example the Nurture debate was seen as the more dominant debate until all the secrets of DNA, genetics and evolution unravelled. He found that the nature debate had been used to address certain issues but the later generations grew suspicious of genetics particularly because it was abused to justify oppression of disadvantaged racial and social groups, most brutally in Nazi Germany. Instead came Freuds notion childhood experiences explain mental health and attitudes, further came studies of Skinner, who suggested that humans can be conditioned just like Pavlov who is most famous for his experiment of conditioning for training dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell. Henderson went on to discuss the theories of Mead and Marx’s. Mead’s comparative studies of different societies suggested that traditions could steer human behaviour in a multitude of directions. Marx’s economic and political theories saw human nature as something to be reshaped and directed to facilitate revolution. It seemed his argument was moving more towards the nurture side of the debate he stated that if anything can be learnt, and anybody can do the learning, then people can be taught to value equality. Social justice and morality became intertwined with the concept that little in life is laid down, or even much affected, by inherited genes. However it seemed that any investigations into human behaviour, there genetics, would be problematic for there position as Wilson came to understand when he suggested that human nature, has a biological basis that might be studied his lectures were picketed and students doused him with water. However Pinker pointed out that it is simply impossible to suggest that either nature or nurture were to determine our behaviour, attitudes but that genes as well as environment make a contribution. He went on to research that it is clear that we are not born with blank slates neither however are our personalities and behaviour determined by genes alone so it is very difficult to distinguish between nature or nurture. He went on to discuss twin studies which was discussed earlier as there is not enough evidence even with identical twins to choose just biological only as there was not a substantial difference between identical and fraternal twins. From Henderson’s review of older studies and going in depth of previous theories it would seem that the results show the sterility of the old nature-nurture debate. Nature works through nurture, and nurture through nature, to shape our personalities, aptitudes, health and behaviour. Unfortunately with every argument and theory there is another argument to find the difficulties with the previous one. The more research found to be true for genetics another piece of factual research would be found for environment. For example Merton a disciple of Durkheim suggested criminal acts were the result of socially created behaviour rather than simple impulses, society offers the same goals and rewards to all citizens, but the means and opportunities to reach these goals are not the same for everyone in society. However Merton in particular could not explain why wealthy, well educated and people not deprived from any society rewards, still commit crime. The question should not be which is the dominant influence, but how they fit together.