Criminal And Deviant Behavior

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Criminal and deviant behavior is an important topic of research in psychology, including the environmental influences and genetic influences on deviant behavior. This is important to understand because if we get a better understanding of when deviant behavior starts then maybe we can give that person help to prevent them from engaging in future criminal activities. Does a person’s genes that are inherited or the environment they grew up in lead to deviant/criminal behavior? Research seems consistent in recognizing that heritability influences adult behavior more than environmental influences, but that for children and adolescents the environment is the most significant factor influencing their behavior (Rhee & Waldman, 2002). So, we see some consistencies in both environmental influences and genes and how they play a role in developing those behavior traits. Research further states that both play a role in deviant and criminal behavior and how there is an interaction between genes and environmental influences that leads to this behavior. This research paper will go over what is nature vs nurture, how social skills are acquired through the social environment (Baker et, al. 2019) a few studies on how it relates to a few theories such as Criminology theory, Biological theories, and Social Process Theory. I will define the difference between criminal behavior and deviant behavior. Then, this paper will talk about how genetics and how its role plays in the influence on early-onset than late-onset delinquency (McGue, M. et, al. 2000) and how criminality is associated with it. Last, well see how environmental influences and peer groups impact our behavior too. With research and studies, the conclusion is that environmental influences and genes can lead to us behaving in ways that can be considered deviant and could lead to criminal activity.

Nature versus Nurture

Nature versus nurture has been associated with questions such as: Do life experiences or inherited traits play a role in shaping your personality? Do genes or environmental factors influence your behavior? The main topic of this debate is, which contributes more to the human development of genetic inheritance or environmental factors? Nature is genes and hereditary factors that help make up who we are, which can include our personality characteristics and physical characteristics which are things that are passed down from our parents. Nurture is environmental variables that can impact who we are, how we were raised, our relationship with others, our culture, and childhood experiences. This debate is vital to the question, do genetics or environmental factors lead to deviant behavior? The process of how genes and environmental factors work together to influence behavior is “Behavioral Genetics”. How can we measure such influences and genetic traits? Through experiments we do. Twins studies have been very popular in testing theories and measuring behavior patterns. Three additional sources that most researchers cite when gathering information about both genetic and environmental influences are twin, family, and adoption studies (Tehrani & Mednick, 2000). with twin studies you can use a behavior genetic research method that includes a comparison of the similarity in identical twins (monozygotic; MZ) and fraternal twins(dizygotic; DZ). However, some have concluded that there is not enough evidence from these twin, family, and adoption studies to profess that genetics do play a role in antisocial or criminal behavior (Lowenstein, 2003).

Social skills

Social skills are thought to be acquired through parents, but the biopsychosocial model shows the importance of genetic influences and gene environmental interactions. A study conducted by (Baker et, al.2019) using the nature vs nurture model of social development wanted to see how social skills were developed by parenting in children. The study consisted of 110 children, 44.5% female along with their parents to see biologically plausible independent and interactive associations. They observed positive and negative parenting throughout the early stages of childhood in early school years ages 6-9. What they found was that the SS vs SL/LL, 5-HTTLPR genotype predicted social skills. Whereas “parenting behavior moderated these associations wherein putative GxE effects differed by developmental timing and social skills domain”. ( Barker et, al.2019) They say that good parenting at 6 is concurrent with their prediction of overall good social skills with the SL/LL genotypes but not SS. But, for the SS good parenting predicted growth in social responsibility while negative parenting predicted social cooperation. With 5-HTTLPR their findings found that 5-HTTLPR may flag differential sensitivities to nurturing styles and examples of social turn of events, which may assist with advising focused on intercession ways to deal with improve individual climate fit.

Criminology Theory

Criminology is the study of why people commit crimes and why they act in specific circumstances. The debate over the causes of crime is an old one, the potential for criminal behavior has been viewed by some as being stamped on people at birth for reasons of heredity while others have maintained that criminals are made, not born. (Jones 2005) By understanding why an individual commits a crime, one can create approaches to control crime or try and rehabilitate that person. There are numerous theories in criminology. Some trait wrongdoing to the individual; they accept that an individual loads the upsides and downsides and settles on a decision whether to carry out a crime. Others trust the community must guarantee that their citizens don't carry out crime by offering them a free safe place to live. Some learn that a few people have inactive characteristics that will decide how they will respond when placed in certain contrary conditions. By reviewing these studies/theories and applying them to people, maybe psychologists can help criminals from doing crimes over and over again and instead help in their recovery. Criminology has four groups of theories that are related to the topic they are: classical theories, biological theories, psychological theories, and social theories of crime. Next, this paper will be talking about the biological theory and how it applies to the genetic aspect of the development of crime and delinquency.

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Biological Theory

Biological theories of crime are the biological nature of humans which determines if they will commit crime or not. It’s the physical and biological characteristics of criminals and non-criminals, it’s used to determine criminals from non-criminals with respect to their genetics, physical constitution, or neurology. Many genes may affect brain functioning in ways that either increase or reduce the chances of individuals learning various complex behavior patterns (Wilcox et, al. 2014). We saw from the earlier study that children learn from their parents and the environment. If a child witnesses’ violence and aggression then the probability of them acting in those ways are high. Addiction has been an example of biological traits that have been passed down from generation to generation and have been called “Hereditary”. Sometimes a child is exposed later in life to the drug then finds themselves addicted to it. This is because there can be a gene that can be associated with an addicted personality, once they are exposed to the drug, life of crime and deviant behavior may occur. Another interesting thing about the biological theory from (Rapin,2002) is that any person, talented or handicapped, whose social skills have been severely deficient since very early childhood, who started to talk late or whose communicative use of language is inadequate, and who perseverates and lacks cognitive and behavioral flexibility meets the diagnostic criteria for an autistic-spectrum disorder. This can explain how people grow up to do unexplainable crimes and severe crimes such as murder.

Social Process Theory

Social Process theory tries to show how people become criminals. It shows criminality in how people interact with various institutions, organizations, and society. This theory examines how criminal behavior is learned through others. People from all walks of life can have the potential to become criminals if they have destructive social relationships. This theory has three branches: social learning, social control, and labeling theory. This theory focuses on criminal behavior as learned behavior. For this theory to be completely tested would require that all the associations a person has ever had, be recorded and analyzed from the standpoint of the individual, which is clearly impossible (Conklin, 1989).

The influence on early-onset than late-onset delinquency

( McGue, M. et, al (2000). Proposed that early-onset delinquency has an underlying genetic influence that manifests in problems related to inhibition, whereas late-onset delinquency is more environmentally mediated. They conducted a study involving 11-year-old twins that consisted of 36 early starters, 85 late starters, and a 25 nondelinquent control group. They compared them to inhibition and peer group measures. What they found was that the early starters had more behavioral, psychological, and emotional problems related to inhibition than the control group and late starters. Further researched indicated that an increase in antisocial behavior in the late starter group just before their delinquency onset. Then the family history data and twin analysis showed that greater genetic influence in the early-onset as suppose to the late-onset delinquency.

Environmental Influences

It has been established that genetics do influence antisocial behavior or criminal behavior, genes can influence disorders and personality traits. But evidence has been found that environmental influences through peers and family can too, have a great impact. Many factors have an impact on a child’s path to crime or antisocial behavior such as the family’s education, poverty, and family structure. Research on the relationship between family environment and child behavior characterizes a child's well-being with a positive and caring parent-child relationship, a stimulating home environment, and consistent disciplinary techniques (Schmitz, 2003). If a household doesn’t have these qualities, then the outcome of deviant behavior is highly likely. Families who don’t have strong bonds and have poor communication most likely will have a child that shows aggressive/criminal behavior. It can be concluded that less fortunate families who have many children, who all aren’t able to be punished, disciplined or given equal positive attention, will engage in some sort of antisocial or delinquent behavior. Also, another sign of future deviant criminal behavior is if abuse or neglect took place during childhood. Statistic’s shows that children are at a fifty percent greater risk of engaging in criminal acts if they were neglected or abused (Holmes et al., 2001). Peer groups are said to be a big factor as well in the development of delinquent/criminal behavior. For example, when children are in preschool and if there are signs of aggressive behavior towards their peers, they might be labeled already an outcast. In return, this creates poor peer relationships and those children will likely hang around other children with the same label. These relationships could continue into adulthood and the similar tendencies of these individuals create an environment in which they influence one another and push the problem towards criminal or violent behavior (Holmes et al., 2001).


There is overwhelmed evidence that concludes that both genetics and environmental influences are the causes of delinquent/criminal behavior. Nature vs Nurture helped us to see how genes help make up who we are and how nurture can impact who we are. Also, how important social skills are, how they are acquired through childhood and how they can have an influence on us. Then we saw how the criminology theory helped us to understand why people commit crimes and how they acted in specific circumstances. The biological theory explained the hereditary factors which are associated with genetics and how they can impact us as well to a life a crime. The social process theory showed us how people become criminals and how environmental influences and peer groups play a huge role in how we would behave in the future. What we can ultimately conclude is genes can possibly predict our future behavior to some degree and our environmental influences too could predict our behavior. Being a twin and also a person who has been interested in this topic, perhaps maybe because I can relate to it. I too am a firm believer in both of these being a factor in if we would live a life a crime. I had a great childhood and a lovely mother, but my father had substance abuse problems that I can say I endured at one point in my life. But I was able to correct it, and move on. Also, once I got out of high school, I had some trouble with the law, but again was able to correct it by changing the places I would hang out in, and the company I kept around. So, in a sense, I tested these theories, lived through them, and can say both are contributing factors.

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Criminal And Deviant Behavior. (2022, February 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 22, 2024, from
“Criminal And Deviant Behavior.” Edubirdie, 21 Feb. 2022,
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