Are offenders that commit deviant crimes born or made?
No easy answer exists, and there are no conclusive findings that suggest it is
all one or the other. There are proponents to each side and some
evidence to support both views. However, for every finding supporting
criminality being genetically engrained into an offender, there is support
demonstrating a similar outcome in terms of crimes committed by an offender
with no family history of violence.
The answer to this is not soon forthcoming and most likely
is a combination of the two variables in question. One of the best
explanations I have found in the literature is the diathesis stress model
that theorizes there are individuals born with a propensity for violence for
various reasons but may or may not become violent depending upon
environmental factors. Research studies (Raine, 1993) have provided
evidence of brain abnormalities contributing to aggression and possibly
psychopathy, while other studies (Meloy, 1988; Raine, 1993) have been demonstrating a link
between serotonin levels and aggression. This alone is not sufficient
to unequivocally prove that individuals are genetically predetermined to be
violent, but it is of importance toward understanding offenders and possible
causes of violence.
The other side of this argument are studies (Lykken, 1995)
that have demonstrated environmental factors leading to violence.
Family discord, abuse, peers, and sexualized environments are all examples
of possible factors that may contribute to an individual learning or being
conditioned to be violent or sexually aggressive. Yet, for every
person that is raised in a violent atmosphere who later becomes violent,
there are many more that do not.
Returning to the diathesis stress model, for an individual
to evolve into the type of offender discussed on this site, they would need
to be biologically predisposed to violence and have negative environmental
factors, which would cause the aggressive impulses to be expressed.
Under this theory, two individuals biologically predisposed to aggression
will develop differently depending upon the environment in which they are
exposed. The individual raised in a loving home, who is taught morals
and respect for others will develop a pro-social interaction style, healthy
boundaries and positive relationships. Because this individual was
able to develop skills for healthy relationships, they will be less likely
to be involved in aggressive acts or become a sexually violent offender.
The other individual in this example who is biologically
predisposed to violence may be raised in a chaotic, violent, abusive home
and is taught to be aggressive in order to fulfill his needs, will develop
antisocial traits, lack morals, have abusive, exploitive relationships and
is more likely to be involved in aggressive acts. Thus, because this
individual was predisposed to violence and raised in an environment that
encouraged the expression of aggression he develops into the future offender of deviant
crimes. Psychopathic offenders are more likely to be individuals
described by this second group.
Lykken, D.T. (1995). The antisocial personalities.
Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Meloy, J.R. (1988). The psychopathic mind: Origins,
dynamics, and treatment. Northvale, NJ: Aronson Inc.
Raine, A. (1993). The psychopathology of crime:
Criminal behavior as a clinical disorder. San Diego, CA: Academic