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Daily Academic Sociology Questions and Answers with Mwiinde Laison - Criminals are born not made

23 Jul 2017 at 10:27hrs | Views
Criminals are born not made. Discuss. [25] (Student request question)

Comment overview
The question demands are explicit, hence one needs to define what a criminal is to better attend to the question. Students are required to show the nature-nurture debate in crime committing. In supporting that criminals are born, high band students will show how biology accounts for crime committing. On the made side, students need to show how the environment leads to crime committing. High scoring students will use a diverse of theories and examples.

Suggested answer
A criminal is defined as someone who has committed a crime. Psychologists have come up with many theories and reasons about why people commit crimes. The two main explanations lie in genetic and environmental factors, which relates to the nature and nurture debate.

Studies have been carried out to explain criminal behaviour. Some suggest that criminals are born, these are, twin studies (Bartol 1998), Family Studies (Farrington 1991) and a study by Jacobs et al (1965) who compared chromosomes. On the other hand there are also studies that have been conducted to prove that criminals are made bysociety. Bandura et al, social learning theory accounts for this and also Virkkumen (1986) who looked at biochemistry and Becker 1963 who studied labelling behaviour. These are examples I will use to support both sides of the argument to determine whether criminals are born or made.

There is information that suggests that there are genetic explanations for crime and that it runs through families of criminals. An'MZ apart' study has been conducted were two monozygotic children have been brought up apart. If both children turn out to be criminals then it supports the genetic explanation. The average concordance rate has been 55%.

Mednick (1987) and Bohman (1995) looked at court convictions and criminal records of 14,000 people and their biological and adoptive parents. They found many of the criminals had criminal parents and there was a strong relationship between fathers and sons. Although when social conditions improved there was a decrease in crime. Osborne and West (1979) found that 40% of sons with criminal fathers became criminals compared with 13% of sons with non-criminal fathers.

Farrington (1991) found that delinquency is linked with parent criminality, poor child rearing techniques, large families and low income. Jacobs et al suggested men with the XYY syndrome were more aggressive than normal XY men and are over represented in prisons. This showing that they may not be a criminal gene but it is possible that certain genes can influence the brains chemistry, which can account for criminal behaviour.

There has also been a link between low blood glucose levels and arson and woman who smoked during pregnancy had sons with conduct orders. All this information provides a good argument to show that criminals are born.
Looking at the other side of the argument now, there is enough evidence to support that criminals are made. Some modern research points to a variety of biochemical factors which may be involved in criminal behavior such as environmental conditions. Sutherland (1939) believes that criminal behaviour is learned through association with other people, especially close personal groups. The learning includes techniques to carry out certain crimes and attitudes and motives that deal with committing crime. He believes boys are more delinquent than girls because of the way they are brought up, being aggressive and risk seekers.

Bandura et al (1963), social learning theory, says that behaviour can be learned through the observation of others, for example, in media such as film and television. Once the behaviour is learned it may be reinforced or punished by its consequences.

There are many social factors that can account for crime and many lie within the family. The size of the family is important; large families mean less attention for some family members and therefore produce negative behaviour. Also the 'contagion effect' can occur. There is also correlation between crime and poor interaction within the family, Patterson (1982).

How children are brought up can affect their outcome of life, physical punishment encourages the child to consider aggression is acceptable because someone in authority uses it. Straus (1991) found that harsh punishment was good in the short term, but in long term can lead to violent delinquency. Schooling can also be a factor in this argument; low academic achievement is associated with criminal behaviour.

Hargreaves (1980) blames schools with a high staff turnover, low staff commitment, streaming and social disadvantages to have the highest crime. When children are labelled, they can either fulfil this label or rebel against it, but in most cases if they are labelled a criminal that's how they will end up (Becker 1963).

Farrington & West (1990) found a link between unemployment, poverty and crime; and the most persistent offenders had not had a stable job. Zimbardo looked at social roles in his prison simulation experiment and similar to this, men who believe in traditional male ideology of being strong are more likely to become criminals.

Having collected information from both sides of this argument, I believe that criminals are both born and made, depending on the circumstances. There is evidence to suggest that crime runs through families and there is a majority of trends arising. On the other hand there are environmental factors as well as genetic ones that add to this, like Farrington and Mednick point out. Farrington argued that many criminals had criminal parents, but the situation improved when social conditions did. Mednick also found an improvement in crime when social conditions got better. Therefore one should note that both act on to each other in producing criminals.

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Source - Mwiinde Laison (Author, Sociologist and Mentor)
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