Predicting Criminal Behavior Is There a Genetic Link Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :


Understanding why crime occurs requires an appreciation for the complexity of human behavior. Behavior is not determined by one factor, but rather influenced by a host of interrelated factors. Modern biological theories in criminology differ from previous theories in that they examine the entire range of biological characteristics, including those that result from genetic defects (those that are inherited) and those that are environmentally induced. In addition, theories developed since the 1980s do not suggest that biological characteristics directly cause crime. Instead, researchers argue that certain biological conditions increase the likelihood that an individual will engage in some antisocial behavior that can be defined as criminal (Fishbein, 1990). Modern theories increasingly focus on the interaction between biological characteristics and the social environment, rather than looking solely at the effects of biology.

This paper explores the research regarding genetic causes or pre-dispositions to criminal behavior and examines the evidence which supports my hypothesis that predicting criminal behavior is not based on genetics or environmental factors alone, but an interaction between the two.




Statement of the Problem

Target Audience

Social Relevance


Chromosome Studies

Twin and Adoption Studies

Social Theories

Personality Traits

Intelligence Studies







Preface Statement

I am writing on the subject of Predicting Criminal Behavior regarding genetic defects (those that are inherited) and those that are environmentally induced. I found this subject to be extremely interesting when I enrolled in Administration of Justice at Imperial Valley College. I also enrolled at Rio Hondo College where I continued to take Criminal Justice Courses and became more interested in and continued to further my education relative this subject. I also started working for the Security & Investigation Unit at Calipatria State Prison where I received numerous trainings courses on the subject of Criminal Behavior.

I am currently working as a Correctional Counselor at Calipatria State Prison. In this position I have a case load of 168 inmates. Part of my job is to review the inmate's Central File and make recommendations on what assignments they should participate in. The Central File indicates a brief history of an inmate's childhood and the environment in which he was raised, juvenile arrests, adult arrests and sometimes a Psychologist's evaluation/opinion as to why an inmate may have participated in certain criminal activities. The Probation Officer Report (POR) lists the dispositions of each arrest and weather or not the inmate was sentenced to probation, Youth Authority, County Jail or State/Federal Prison.

I have worked in Law Enforcement for eight years. I served three years on the Security & Investigation Team.

I feel I have acquired the background needed to undertake this research.

During my tenure with the Security & Investigation team, I attended 160 hours in related courses.

I am in my third semester at Union Institute & University, working toward a Bachelor of Arts degree in Administration of Justice.



There has been an ongoing debate about what factors are most important in explaining or predicting crime and criminality. At one end of the spectrum there are biological and psychological theorists who believes that genetics, heredity, temperament, environment, and intelligence are the elements criminologists should be examining. Biological theorists claim that certain people are more predisposed than others to engage in criminal activity because of their genetic composition and/or by heredity, especially if their parents themselves are criminals or have criminal tendencies. Psychological theorists suggest that criminality originates primarily in the personalities of offenders rather than in their biology. The personality characteristics in question are impulsiveness, unconscious elements, and antisocial behavior. Thus, individuals unable to control or balance these characteristics are more likely to engage in criminal activity.

Statement of the Problem

Crime plagues American society. There are vast degrees of criminal behavior, such as a simple shoplifter, a car thief, or a killing machine with no conscience. But how is this killing machine created? Where and how does this type of criminal behavior begin? The answers to these questions must be addressed in order to understand the formation of this deviance.

Predicting criminal behavior has always been a complex issue. Scientists and psychologist have debated over whether this behavior stems from child rearing, or whether it is genetically inherited. To answer this complex question, several research studies have been conducted in determining which genetic, and environment variables plays a significant part in criminal behavior.

Target Audience write this paper to possibly provide some insight to Law Enforcement Officers and anyone else who is interested in learning what makes the criminal think as he/she does. This information is intended to promote an extensive analysis of the criminal and to provide one with the ability to perhaps have a broader understanding of how the criminal mind works.

Social Relevance

This research conducted regarding Criminal Behavior is important and relevant because crime is a widespread problem that leaves few Americans and their communities untouched. The American public's concern regarding crime is not new. It has, however, reached unprecedented proportions, as we recoil from the randomness and brutality of the criminal activity that inflicts our nation's cities today. The ultimate goal is to understand the importance of biology when trying to understand what motivates criminal behavior. Genetics is not the only contributing factor in predicting criminal behavior. Other aspects of human biology may be a factor in understanding what causes criminal behavior and how to reduce or prevent criminal activities.



Perhaps the best known early genetic approach to criminality was proposed in the latter part of the nineteenth century by the Italian physician Cesare Lombroso. Cesare Lombroso's very early theory that one can tell a criminal by certain physical features, such as a low forehead has been discarded. But modern researches (Eysecnk and Gudjonsson 1989) have shown that criminal behavior is affected by heredity -- thus providing strong, though indirect support for the belief that the antisocial personality also is affected by heredity.

One of the most common theories of why criminals commit crime, is that person's ability to commit crime is pre-determined. Chromosomal theory has also been used to explain criminal behavior. Within this theory, aggressive behavior is linked with a genetic abnormality wherein a sperm or ovum contains more than one sex chromosome. When conception occurs, the resulting embryo will have an extra sex chromosome. Some of the genetic abnormalities that would make one's behavior pre-determined would be the XYY chromosomal structure (not applicable in women, just men). (Ellis, 1982).

In 1965, the first well-known study that linked criminal behavior to an abnormal sex chromosome was made by British researchers who examined 197 Scottish prisoners for chromosomal abnormalities through a relatively simple blood test (Jacobs, Brunton, and Melville, 1965). Twelve of the group displayed chromosomes that were unusual, and seven were found to have an XYY chromosome. Patricia Jacobs was the first to report high incidences of XYY chromosome among mentally subnormal patients with dangerous, violent or criminal tendencies. These theories have been tested on people in prisons and seem to have a high correlation. The "criminal disease" could be caused by a recessive gene passed down from one or both of the parents. This means if it is recessive in a female, both parents would have had to pass it along. This is one theory as to why one rarely sees female criminals in our society. If the parents give the recessive gene to the male offspring the male automatically has the disease since he does not have another X chromosome or have another dominant chromosome to over ride the disease. Therefore, a person may carry the disease without it showing for many generations, then suddenly show-up in an offspring or sibling (Ellis, 1982).

In 1967, a study was conducted using 863 Scandinavian men (Ellis, 1982). Patricia Jacobs found that over half of all the information found relating social class and adoption to crime could mostly be traced back to genetic influence. According to Hoffman and Ellis, there has been just one unusual Karytype (the chromosomal characteristics) implicated in criminology; the 47th chromosome XYY. When they chose to study chromosomes, they looked at it from two different angles:

The length of the chromosome

The Identification of individuals with an unusual amount of chromosomes.

Ellis (1982), indicated that the first part of the investigation dealing with chromosomes have to do with the length of the Y chromosomes. Behavioral geneticists have found that the Y chromosome is longer in criminals than in non-criminals. Relating back to heredity, it was found that males with a long Y chromosome, who have committed a criminal offense, have often sons with the same long Y chromosomes. Furthermore, their sons have usually committed the same criminal offense.

In another study pertaining to chromosomes, researchers like Moyer (1979) investigated several prisons and found that most of the inmates who had the XYY chromosomes showed psychopathic signs. It seems that individuals who posses either a XYY or XXY…

Sources Used in Document:

Thornberry (1987) incorporates social learning theory, social bonding, cognitive theory, and social structure theories of criminal behavior to explain delinquency. Thornberry sees delinquency activities as changing over time. As youths enter adolescence, their bonds to their parents and social institutions are said to weaken. Peer groups become more important to them.

If these young people reside in socially disorganized environments, they are at high risk to have weak social bonds and peers who engage in deviance. Adolescents who are from more stable environments may engage in deviancy (they are, after all, adolescents), but their actions are better controlled by stronger social bonds and associations with peers who engage in more conventional behaviors.

Thornberry sees delinquent behaviors as influenced by age. As young people enter their late teens, the influence of peers gives way to perceptions of their roles in society. Thornberry

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