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Juvenile Crime Nature Or Nurture Essay

Nature theories assert that the etiology of criminal behavior is biologically based in genetic inheritance and the structure and functions of people’s brains and other psychological responses. Wilson and Herrnstein 1985 presents the early beginnings and approaches of biosocial theory. Moffitt 1993 presents the author’s classic developmental theory, which is based on a biosocial approach. Modern biosocial approaches of life-course theory and the development of deviant behavior can be found in Wright, et al. 2008 and DeLisi and Beaver 2011. Fishbein 2004 provides a summation of not only the science but also treatment and prevention practices grounded in nature theories. Anderson 2007 and Walsh and Ellis 2007 present overviews and integrated biosocial approaches in criminology. Pinker 2011 is a controversial text that outlines nature theories and uses them as evidence for declining rates of violence in modern times. See also Lombroso-Ferrero 1972.

  • Anderson, Gail. 2007. Biological influences on criminal behavior. Boca Raton, FL: Simon Fraser Univ.

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    A useful overview of the biosocial perspective of the etiology of criminal behavior focusing on genetic factors as well as the structure and functioning of the brain.

  • DeLisi, M., and Kevin M. Beaver, eds. 2011. Criminological theory: A life-course approach. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.

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    An integrated presentation of several perspectives of criminological theories focusing on the development of antisocial behavior from a biosocial life-course perspective.

  • Fishbein, Diana, ed. 2004. The science, treatment, and prevention of antisocial behavior: Evidence-based practice. 2 vols. Kingston, NJ: Civic Research Institute.

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    This text presents the origins of antisocial behavior as well as effective theory-based interventions for prevention and treatment of individuals who display them. First published in 2000 (The science, treatment, and prevention of antisocial behaviors: Application to the criminal justice system).

  • Lombroso-Ferrero, Gina. 1972. Criminal man, according to the classification of Cesare Lombroso. Montclair, NJ: Patterson Smith.

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    A reprinted version of Cesare Lombroso’s original work, Criminal Man, written by his daughter Gina. This work chronicles Lombroso’s positivistic approach and study of criminality that laid the groundwork for subsequent biological theories of crime.

  • Moffitt, Terrie E. 1993. Adolescence-limited and life-course-persistent antisocial behavior: A developmental taxonomy. Psychological Review 100.4: 674–701.

    DOI: 10.1037/0033-295X.100.4.674E-mail Citation »

    A classic theoretical piece classifying offenders into adolescence-limited offenders and life-course-persistent offenders. This suggests that most offenders are delinquent during adolescence and then desist upon entering adulthood, while only a small percentage become lifelong criminals.

  • Pinker, Steven. 2011. The better angels of our nature: Why violence has declined. New York: Viking.

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    A controversial work that argues violence is declining in society due to advanced genes and evolutionary inheritance. The author capitalizes on human nature and its development over time.

  • Walsh, Anthony, and Lee Ellis. 2007. Criminology: An interdisciplinary approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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    This text presents a compilation of modern criminological theories integrated with biological and psychological explanations of the development of criminality.

  • Wilson, James Q., and Richard Herrnstein. 1985. Crime & human nature: The definitive study of the causes of crime. New York: Free Press.

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    An early text on the beginnings of the biosocial theory and approach to causes of criminal behavior. The authors explore patterns of offending, namely who commits crimes and why, focusing on characteristics such as age, gender, race, intelligence, impulsivity, and other constitutional factors.

  • Wright, John P., Stephen G. Tibbetts, and Leah E. Daigle. 2008. Criminals in the making: Criminality across the life course. Los Angeles: SAGE.

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    A biosocial approach detailing the structure and genetic makeup of the criminal mind and causes of criminal behavior throughout the life-course.

  • Nature Vs. Nurture: Crime And Delinquency

    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...

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