The argument concerning the causes of crimes often leads to the development of absolutely opposite views. In this respect, it is possible to mention Choice and Trait theories which view major causes of crimes in the environment of an individual or in his natural, hereditary inclinations. Even such crimes as robberies may be interpreted in terms of these two theories.
To prove this fact it is possible to refer to the article “For Mexican Worker, a Long Walk Home” by Emily Brady where the author depicts the repeated cases of robberies Mexican workers suffered from. In fact, they were robbed by two Latin American robbers who used gun to frighten their victims and get their money without resistance. Obviously, the teenagers had their reasons to commit the crimes but it is important to realize what the actual causes of these crimes were. In other words, it is necessary to find out what actually made them robbers.
In order to answer this question, it is possible to refer to the Trait and Choice theories. According to the Trait theory, it is the hereditary factors that defined the criminal behavior of the robbers. The adepts of the Trait theory argue that genes are responsible for vitally important functions of a human organism, consequently it is possible to presuppose that they may also affect a psychological aspect of a personal development leading to criminal behavior and, therefore, robberies. One of the strongest evidences in their hands is the result of twin study, particularly monozygotic or identical twins. Since researches reveal the fact that “identical twins tend to be around 80 percent the same in everything from stature to health to IQ to political views”(Collins 2000, p.221). Such data urge some specialists to the denying of a traditional idea that “violence is part of a historical process and is not natural or born of biological determinism” but, on the contrary, they believe that violence “is part of our design” (Collins 2000, p.230). In such a context, the behavior of robbers is defined by their genes and heritage.
However, opponents of the Trait theory have their own counterarguments. Traditional or even conservative psychologists, standing on the ground of the Choice theory estimate that an antisocial behavior, such as robbery, are learned by children from their parents as well as from their social environment, including peers, friends, neighbors, etc. and it has nothing to do with our genes and their role in the formation of a criminal is extremely limited and do not predetermine a violent behavior. The researches concerning this problem revealed the fact that children who were born to violent parents but raised up in non-violent families were characterized practically by the same behavioral non-violent trends as other children who were born and raised up in non-violent families. On the contrary, if children born to non-violent parents grew in aggressive, violent familial environment, they had a tendency to be criminally aggressive and, therefore, if the robbers grew in a violent environment where antisocial behavior was a norm, robberies were normal behavior for them. As a result, such researches reveal the fact that “the reason why violence runs in families must be environmental. The huge body of evidence shows that violence breed violence, not genes” (Cadoret 1996, p.581).
Thus, it is very difficult to define clearly what the real cause of robberies is. Nowadays arguments about the role of genes in personal physical and mental development become stronger and now it is known that certain forms of behavior have a genetic component, for instance IQ is considered to be 60-80 percent heritable, and “the body of evidence for over 90 % of causation of sexual orientation being genetic continues to mount up” (Glass 2002, p.156) but there is no ‘criminal gene’ that is exclusively responsible for crimes a person commits. Consequently, it is hardly possible to factually prove that robberies are determined solely by genes or heritage of the criminals.
However, the same may be said about the influence of environment on a personality because in spite of the great role of nurture still each person inherit something from his or her parents that may cause certain shift in a person’s behavior which may be even dangerous. This means that the robbers may originate from non-violent or good families but they could grow in a criminal environment and, consequently, commit robberies under the influence of their friends or simply because of the lack of money, for instance. Some psychological or psychiatric problems are heritable than it wouldn’t be surprising if a person whose parents had such problems will have problems with antisocial behavior, including trend to robberies.
Thus, it is evident that the cause of antisocial behavior, including robberies, is not exclusively genetic or environmental. The problem should be viewed larger and researchers shouldn’t be rigid as conservatives believing in the priority of the Choice theory but, on the other hand, they shouldn’t be easily persuaded by the adepts of the Trait theory, who believe only in the power of genes and heritage. It is evident that a real cause of antisocial behavior is much more complicated. It is necessary to realize that genetic arguments can’t be used to excuse robberies neither can environmental arguments do but, at the same time, genes and environmental factors often interact and they may be interdependent. Anyway, whatever people genes are they still have a choice and they must decide for themselves how they must to act in different situations. This means that person’s aggressiveness or antisocial behavior is not purely genetically and environmentally influenced but it also may be changed by the person. Also, it should be said that it is hardly possible to say definitely that either heritage or an individual’s choice determine criminal behavior. This means that the two teen robbers discussed above could behave differently if they had a different heritage or made right choice in their life. On the other hand, their choices or heritage could not be as the only cause of the robberies. Instead, it would be logical to presuppose that the multiple factors determined the crimes they committed.
Brady, E. “For Mexican Workers, a Long Walk Home.” New York Times, October 21, 2007.Cadoret, R. J. et. al. “The Developmental Interface Between Nature and Nurture: A Mutual Influence of Child Antisocial Behavior and Parent Behavior.” Developmental Psychology vol. 32, no. 4, 1996.
Collins, W.A., et. al. “Contemporary Research on Parenting: The Case for Nature and Nurture.” American Psychologist, 55, 2000.
Glass, J. “Nature vs. Nurture.” Parenting, vol. 13, no 10, Jan. 2002.
Mann, C. “Genes and Behavior.” Science, 264, 1994.
Rutter, M.L. “Nature-Nurture integration.” American Psychologist, vol.52, no. 4, Apr. 1997.
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