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Biological-Genetic Influences & Criminal Behavior

Updated on March 6, 2018

This report will expound upon biological and genetic influences on criminality. I will discuss what the current beliefs are in regards to these subjects. Also, of concern will be the validity of the current information in regards to the subject matter.

Originally it was thought that certain biological traits had influence on criminality. This was called positivistic criminology and Lombroso was known as the founder of this theory. However, these early beliefs were founded at a time when there was very little technical or scientific knowledge available, (Wright et al., 2008). Yet this train of thought was not totally unfounded as the positivists’ did believe that criminality could be transferred from generation to generation which was later credited to genetics, (Lombroso-Ferrero, 1972).

Now geneticists have conducted familial studies on pairs of individuals and these studies have allowed them to better understand how much certain traits can be attributed to genes or whether the results are environmental, (Plomin, 1990). Studies of twins and genetics were preformed to see if there could be found differences in traits pertaining to criminality. For these studies monozygotic and dizygotic twins were studied. A concordance rate was found using penal and police records 35 percent of identical male twins and only 13 percent of fraternal twins showed concordance towards criminality. Although most studies preformed between the 1800’s and 1900’s were in agreement some did not concur. However, researchers believe that the majority of evidence proved that criminality had a genetic base, (Dalgaard & Kringlen, 1976).

More contemporary studies have been performed by researchers and it was found that heritability and behavioral problems to be attributed to genetics. Also creativity, scholastic achievement and learning disabilities were found to have at least partial genetic roots, (Plomin, 1990). Another study conducted of 256 twin pairs showed that shared environmental influences were not related to delinquent behavior but that genes and non-shared environmental factors were, (Rowe, 1986). Furthermore, according to Wright, he mentioned that if evidence failed in proving that criminality and genetics had considerable correlating factors that he and his colleagues would have mentioned it, (Wright et al., 2008).

Of all of the current research conducted on the brain and criminality it should be known that results are still considered preliminary and not yet well established, (Wright et al., 2008). It has been found that most studies implicate problems with the frontal and temporal regions of the brain to be associated with criminality; however, Wright and his colleagues believe that the limbic system has more importance relating to criminality, (Wright et al., 2008). From my studies it seems that any dysfunction of any area of the brain can be related to behavioral problems and contribute towards criminality in one way or another either directly or indirectly. Wherefore; there is a definite relationship between criminality and biological functions. It has also been proven that genetics and criminality are directly related to a certain degree.

Genetics and criminality is one of the most widely disagreed upon fields of study within the realm of criminology. Some of the theories are very hard to believe in while others seem to make logical sense. For example; genetic or inherent traits that influence criminal behavior is harder to validate than other genetic factors such as learning disabilities and such. If a person has been found to have mental health problems or learning disabilities, then often they can end up a law breaker. Also, people with lower IQ’s tend to be more at risk than do people with a higher level of intelligence. Still, it is a fact that there is no genetic test that can be performed on an unborn child that will let us know how susceptible to crime the child will be if they are born.

Works Cited

Dalgaard, O. S., & Kringlen, E. (1976). A Norwegian study of criminality. British Journal of Criminology, 16, 213-232.

Lombroso-Ferrero, G. (1972). Lombroso’s criminal man. Montelair, NJ: Patterson Smith.

Plomin, R. (1990). Nature and nurture: An introduction to human behavioral genetics. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Rowe, D. C. (1986). Genetic and environmental components of antisocial behavior: A study of 265 twin pairs. Criminology, 24 (3), 513-532.

Wright, J. P., Tibbetts, S. G., & Daigle, L. E. (2008). Criminals in the making. Criminality across the course.

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    • rob211rp profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Boise, ID.

      This is a fairly new field of study but there is a substantial amount of research indicating that brain injuries or problems with the brain can be indicative of possible criminal behavior. For more information on this subject see Kevin M. Beaver's text Biosocial Criminology.

    • Brownie83 profile image

      Kelly Wagner 

      6 years ago from Arvada, Colorado

      I'd be interested to know what studies you've done on biological-genetic influences & criminal behavior. I've had my share of caring for frontal lobe injuries and TBI's: They're all different but the same if you've ever cared for one. Even if there was a genetic test to determine who would have criminalistic behaviors, how would we use it and would that act be criminalistic in itself? Just a thought, interesting hub.


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