Do you believe there is a latent trait that makes a person crime prone, or is crime a function of environment and socialization?

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This is an interesting question. As of right now, the answer to this question is subjective because geneticists have not found any "crime gene" yet. It is within the realm of possibility that there is a specific set of genes that might cause a person to be more crime prone...

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This is an interesting question. As of right now, the answer to this question is subjective because geneticists have not found any "crime gene" yet. It is within the realm of possibility that there is a specific set of genes that might cause a person to be more crime prone than another person without those genes; however, while that is possible, I do not think that it is probable.

At the core of this question is an issue of nature vs. nurture. The nature side of the argument states that a person looks and behaves they way that he or she does because that is the sum total of the DNA that they have. Everything about the person is determined by their DNA. On the nurture side of the argument is that a person and his or her personality is largely affected by their social upbringing.

Personally, I disagree with favoring either side of the argument 100%. It's a combination. That's why identical twins can have eerily similar personalities, but also have very different likes and dislikes. In my opinion, a person is likely to choose to commit a crime out of necessity. If they are starving, stealing a loaf of bread is preferable to death. On the other hand is something like kleptomania. That is an inability to refrain from the urge for stealing. It is usually done for reasons other than personal use or financial gain, but it is classified as an impulse control disorder. There may be genetic links to that, but that isn't the same thing as saying a person has a crime trait.

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My answer is "no." I believe that crime is almost always the result of environmental factors and socialization. This is a result of two things: a society where the basic needs of its citizens are not met, and the inherent social and political bias in criminal lawmaking itself.

Many crimes occur out of perceived necessity: for example, theft in order to survive in poverty, violence and manslaughter in self defense, etc. Even crimes like gang violence are a result of many environmental and socialization factors:

1. The decision to join a gang often arises out of economic necessity or the need for a support system.

2. The decision to commit crimes through a gang can be the result of socialization within the group or the fear that not engaging in criminal activity would result in the loss of support/economic means that the group provides.

In addition, some laws are written to criminalize certain groups and behaviors; thus, it could be argued that certain communities are more likely to engage in criminal activity simply by existing. An example of this could be gay couples who choose to be with each other in countries and states where homosexuality is illegal.

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My answer is "yes."  In other words, I think that both factors can have an impact on whether a person will commit some forms of crime.

For example, there are genes that have been connected to the propensity for violence.  There are genes connected with a low ability to exercise self control.  These sorts of traits would make it more likely that a person would commit a crime.

But these genes do not, by themselves, cause criminal behavior.  A person who has somewhat less innate self control, but has been "trained" by socialization to control himself might not commit crimes.   Both "nature" and "nurture" surely play a part.

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I think the key to your question is the word "latent," meaning that it is just below the surface waiting to come out. People whose environments are violence-prone can often be nonviolent themselves until some stimulus causes them to break out of anger.
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This is the ever-present nature vs. nurture debate put into the context of criminality and law.  In my opinion, it is a combination of the two that makes a criminal.  Further, I think that in SOME criminals, some kind of genetics (nature) takes prevalence while in OTHERS it is their situation (nurture) that is the primary factor.  Also, pasha30, I think your answer (in post #3) conveys this idea very well.

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This is a never-ending debate, one that will surely never be solved to everyone's satisfaction.

I would argue that "nurture" is by far more important than "nature" in making some people commit crimes.  I admit that it is possible that there are genetic factors that make it more likely that a given person will end up committing crimes.  However, the environment in which they grow up surely has more to do with whether they actually end up committing crimes.  If you put two people with identical genetic propensities to crime in very different environments, the one who gets put in a poor environment with a weak family support system is surely more likely to commit crimes than the one who is put into a well-off family that is tightly-knit and which gives the child a structured and disciplined environment.

Therefore, genetics may influence criminality, but I would argue that environment and socialization matters much more.

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