Is It Nature or Nurture?

The survey of the leading explanations of criminal offending does not really address the central question related to nature versus nurture: Are criminals born or made?

Some biological explanations—especially those that show that genetics seem to play a critical role in some criminal offending— make a strong argument for a nature explanation of crime. Some research, for instance, shows that a strong indicator of a person’s tendency to commit crimes is related to the criminal behavior of fathers, thus suggesting that criminals are born (Siegel and Welsh, 2009).

On the other hand, various sociological explanations showing that poverty, social organization, and social environment are related to criminal behavior make an equally strong case for a nurture explanation of crime (Masters et al., 2013).

Although it may be fun to debate the nature versus nurture question, the bottom line is that there is as of yet no clear and convincing research for either side. The best answer that can be proposed at this time is that both biological and inherited traits and psychological traits and social influences play important roles in explaining criminal offending. It is still too early to say that we can predict with any great certainty which young children will and which young children will not grow up to be future criminals.

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