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They say in every family there is a`` black sheep" member of the family, and so is the same common in most societies. Here the so-called black sheep are those people who exhibit criminal behaviors in the societies. One of the biggest challenges that the law enforcers have to deal with in their day-to-day work is trying as much as possible to curb and minimize criminal acts in the society. Generally, acts of crime in the recent past have been on the increase in most societies if not all. Largely, this is because of change of lifestyles and the pressure from societal demands.
Arresting, prosecuting and punishing persons who commit crimes in societies is commendable. However, as much as it serves to minimize crimes in societies, it is not very effective because by so doing, it is like trying to wipe away spilling water while the tap is still running. More emphasis should be on trying to understanding the overlying factors that attribute to criminal behaviors in individuals. Whether individuals are born criminals or made criminals is a topic of great debate. In this paper, we seek to establish the link between biological, genetic, and sociological factors used in determining criminals. Furthermore, it tries to establish how the three factors may interact to predict a person's criminal behavior. When this is established, it may give a green light as far as the war against crime is concerned.
According to Sykes and Cullen (1992), criminal behavior is defined as; any behavior that has criminal intent, or that results in punishment by law enforcement. Whether people are born with criminal tendencies or behaviors or they acquire or learn the behavior from the environment they associate with, is an area with great debate. Some proponents argue that behaviors are learnt, only as an individual interacts with the surrounding environment. That a person is born with an `empty mind' (blank slate) and that a person can be made to become anything by controlling the person's environment.
According to Lock (1697), he argues that at birth, human mind is a blank slate, or a tabula rasa and empty of ideas. That knowledge and behaviors are acquired as a person interacts with the environment. in this case, the genes have nothing to do with a person's behavior. On the other hand, other proponents propose that what a person becomes is largely determined by the person's genetic make-up. This debate brings us to examine, albeit critically, the two factors in predicting the criminal behaviors of persons. The two factors being; the biological factors also known as genetic factors or hereditary factors, and the sociological factors, which may also be known as environmental factors. In our discussion, we look at how these two factors may interact to predict a person's behavior.
This topic brings us to the age-old debate between nature and nature. This make us to ask ourselves, is it the responsibility of an individual's genetic make-up that makes a person become criminals, or is it the environment that the person is raised in that determines what a person becomes. Because of the debate, it led to a research to being conducted in trying to determine which factor was responsible for the person's criminality. The research came with a conclusion that both genes and environment play a role in criminality of a person. The study consisted a number of twin family, adaption studies, as well as laboratory experiments. The research suggested the interaction between the genes of an individual and the environment as the pivotal aspect that predicts criminal behavior.
The term genetic, come from the word gene, which is the basic unit that is capable to transmit characteristics from one generation\individual to another. Therefore, genetics is a branch of biology that deals with hereditary. As we look at genetic factors, we look at those characters that are transmitted from parents to their offsprings. At this level, we want to assume that if an individual turns out with criminal behavior, is that he or she inherited the behavior from the parent and that the blame should not lie squarely on him/her because he/she is just a carrier of what was deposited in him or her. To support this notion, let us have a look at some of the studies carried out to indicate that genetic factors play a role in predicting a person's criminality.
The study called; twin, adoption, and family study looked at several monozygotic twins and identical twins and comparing their rate of criminal behavior with the rate of criminal behavior of the dizygotic twins and fraternal twins. Monozygotic twins are twin that develop from the same egg/ovum and therefore their genetic composition is similar while dizygotic twins are the opposite. These twins were reared apart, adopted by a non-relative just a short time after birth. The results showed that for both childhood and adult antisocial behavior, there was a high degree of heritability involved (Rodgers Buster and Rowe, 2001). The MZ twin pairs were found to have a 50% concordance (in one out of two cases both twins exhibited criminal behavior) where in the DZ cases there was only 21% concordance. This illustrates a strong correlation of genetics and criminal disposition.
Source: (Rodgers Buster and Rowe, 2001)
This study was of particular importance because it examined the factor of separate environment. If the outcomes of these twin studies show that there is a higher concordance rate for monozygotic twins than for dizygotic twins in criminal behavior, then it can be assumed that there is a genetic influence. The researchers also found that as compared to the control group, the adopted individuals, which were born to incarcerated female offenders, had a higher rate of criminal convictions as adults. Therefore, this evidence supports the existence of a heritable component to antisocial or criminal behavior.
Sociological and environmental factors
Humans are social beings and so they socialize with others as well as with the surrounding/ the environment. As far as the human life is concerned, socialization is unavoidable. As Lock attributes that humans are born with their mind being a blank slate, and therefore what they become is because of interacting with the environment. The environment here is taken to mean people around and other surrounding factors. Looking at the sociological factors as being determinant of a person's criminal behavior, we imply that criminals are not born criminals but rather they learn to be criminals.
This means that the environment that a person is brought up plays a crucial role in determining what kind of a person one becomes. For instance assuming a person was born `a good person' and then taken to an environment characterized with antisocial and criminal activities, the `good person' is likely to become a criminal because he/she has been socialized to by a crime filled environment.
In socialization, a child is taught how to act and behave according to the societal norms. Here the child learns the rules and values of their society. This implies that if the child is brought up in an environment that instills values in the child, that rewards good acts and punishes bad acts, the child is more likely to become a responsible member of the society, unlike when the child is brought up in an environment that has no morals, that is characterized with deviant behaviors. . If a child is not taught how to properly act or inconsistently reinforced, clear-cut moral obligations may not be instilled leading to effected social judgment and a disposition towards criminal behavior.
As a parent, one notices some weird behaviors in the child such as stealing, lying among other undesirable deeds. Therefore, it is justifiable to argue that it is the responsibility of the parent to correct the child by any possible means when the child is still young because it is easier to learn and change for a child as compared to an adult. Consequently, a child must be socialized with the acceptable behaviors early in life. The family environment is very critical in the upbringing of a child and if a problem occurs, the child is likely to suffer the consequences and these may go a long way in affecting the child even when he/she is grown up.
Having looked at both the biological factors and the sociological factors how they play to predict the person's criminal behavior, we can now say that both biological factors and sociological factors do interact to determine or predict a person's criminal behavior. We have seen that either of the factors may affect or predict the criminality of a person. However, when the issue is looked at from both sides, it gives a better understanding and so is to predicting criminal behaviors. Biologically, neurochemicals are responsible in activation of behavioral patterns and tendencies in some specific areas of brains.
Apart from the neurochemicals, a person may contain predisposing genes for criminality, but these genes largely will depend on the environment. If a person having such genes interact with crime filled environment, the genes are likely to be `activated' and take better part of the individual. This leads to that individual becoming or exhibiting criminal behaviors, where as even if the individual has these genes but is brought up in a good environment, these genes are suppressed and therefore though the person contain such genes he or she does not exhibit criminal behaviors. On the other hand, it is possible that a person may not have the genes associated with criminality but because of the environment, that the person was/is brought up in, the person ends up exhibiting criminal behaviors even though genetically, he has no such genes.
That criminality is a product of only biological factors or only of sociological factors cannot be distinctively ascertained. The two factors both interact to predict the individual's criminal behavior. Though other researchers claim that genetic factors play the major role in determining the outcome of a person's behavior as compared to that of environmental factors, there is no enough evidence to support this assertion. In as much as many studies and researches have focused on this issue, the result should be used as additional information in the management of criminal behaviors in our societies. It should not be taken as the gospel truth on handling the issue because the researches do have flaws also because it is difficult to effectively monitor and control the environment just the same way it is to study a person especially if he or she realizes that they are under study.
Looking at the roles that genetics and environment play in determining criminal behaviors, we can only say that there is a complex interaction between nature and nurture as far as predicting an individual's criminal behavior is concerned. Conclusively, we can say that criminality is a product of genes and environment. With the knowledge that criminal behaviors are born or made, it is important that we identify these early in children. It is imperative that the young are given or availed the right environment so that they do not turn out to be criminals and in so doing, we will reduce the level of crimes in our societies as opposed to just arresting those who have already turned out to be criminals.