Does a latent trait make a person crime prone, or is crime a function of environment and socialization?

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This is a question which essentially boils down to the nature-versus-nurture argument. In other words, is somebody prone to certain behaviors because of their genetic makeup ("nature"), or because of the environment and ways in which they were brought up ("nurture")?

Various studies have shown that children with one or more parents who have been in jail or who are currently in jail are more than twice as likely to commit crimes than children without criminal parents. This is not necessarily because of any latent genetic trait, however. It is just as likely a consequence of the social and economic conditions that those parents and their children share. Indeed, socioeconomic status always correlates negatively with most criminal behavior, and it stands to reason that a child raised in poverty is more likely to resort to criminality than a child raised in affluence.

There are, however, also studies which do link certain crimes with certain genes. A recent study in Finland, for example, isolated two genes that it claimed are linked to violent behavior, and, in a study of 900 criminals, discovered that those with these two genes were thirteen times more likely to commit violent crime than those without.

My own view on this issue is that criminal behavior can be linked to both one's nature and one's nurture. Somebody's genetic makeup, or latent traits, set certain parameters, and the same person's nurture, or socialization, will in turn determine how that person behaves within those parameters. A useful analogy is that of a car traveling on a road. The edges of the road are like the parameters set by one's genetic makeup, but the car can move slowly or quickly, in a straight line or zigzagging, according to how the driver has been taught to drive.

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We simply do not know for sure what causes a person to commit crimes.  We cannot experiment on human beings by doing things like taking people with identical genes and raising them in different ways to determine for sure how much crime is caused by genetic factors and how much it is caused by environment and socialization.

There is a school of thought that holds to the biosocial theory of crime.  This school believes that both genetic traits and environment help to influence people towards crime.  To these theorists, there are genetic traits that predispose a person to criminal acts.  However, these traits do not completely determine whether a person will commit crimes.  Instead, a person who has a predisposition to crime can be influenced by their socialization and environment and can avoid actually acting on their predisposition.  Meanwhile, a person with less predisposition to crime might become a criminal if raised in the wrong circumstances.

Thus, at least to one school of thought, both genetic traits and environment and socialization help to determine whether a person will commit crimes.

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Is it a latent genetic trait that makes a person crime prone, or is crime a function of environment and socialization?

Biosocial theorists of crime argue that both of these factors are important in determining whether a person comes to commit crimes.

Such theorists argue that people can be genetically predisposed to crime.  They point out that there are predispositions to many other things.  Therefore, they argue, it is likely that there are genes that push a person towards crime.

However, they also realize that environment and socialization can make it more or less likely that these tendencies will lead to actual criminal acts.  They say that people from certain less stable environments are more likely to be socialized in ways that allow their criminal tendencies to manifest.  Conversely, people who are raised in “better” environments may learn to subdue their tendencies towards crime.

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