Is Criminal Behavior Learned or Does Your Dna Already Predispose You at Birth to Criminal Behavior?

Last Updated: 15 Feb 2021
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Is criminal behavior learned or does your DNA already predispose you at birth to criminal behavior? How does Behavior genetics, learning theory and cognitive development theory fit into your assumption. In my opinion, criminal behavior is learned. All in all, I believe that every aspect of human life in general is learned. That’s how we evolve and further innovate our lives. Some learn to be productive citizens and some learn to engage in criminal behavior. Criminal behavior exists because of the way people think and the choices they make.

Criminality is a lifestyle, and criminals must either be confined forever or be taught how to change their ways of thinking. In criminology, biological and psychological explanations of behavior have been out of style for some time. In fact, the authors of the leading criminology text from the 1920’s to the 1970’s, Edwin H. Sutherland and Donald R. Cressey, “clearly rejected the importance of biological factors” in explaining criminal behavior. Scholars such as Glenn D. Walters and Thomas W.

White developed the thesis that both criminal and noncriminal behavior are related to cognitive development and that people choose the behavior in which they wish to engage. They have concluded: “the root causes of crime…are thought and choice (Walters and White 8). I agree wholeheartedly with Walters and White that people choose the behavior they wish to engage in and if its criminal behavior then they will have to accept the consequences. The cognitive development theory is based on the belief that the way people organize their thoughts about rules and laws results in either criminal or noncriminal behavior (Reid 88).

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People regulate their own actions and whether they abide by the laws that govern them. The behavior that can be observed or manipulated is important. That is the behavior that will decide criminality. This behavior is learned through cognitive thinking and its way of learning can be eliminated, modified, or replaced by taking away the reward value or by rewarding a more appropriate behavior that is incompatible with the deviant one. Neurotic symptoms and some deviant behaviors are acquired through an unfortunate quirk of learning (Reid 89).

Even the learning theory acknowledges that individuals have physiological mechanisms that permit them to behave aggressively, but whether or not they will do so is learned, as is the nature of their aggressive behavior (Reid 89). All of this can coincide with an external environment such as the neighborhood a criminal lives in. What that criminal sees in his everyday life may be different that what a non-criminal sees, therefore they will learn the deviant behavior they’re around.

Behavior genetics definitely has an impact on the way people think and act. Criminals learn how to become criminals by either watching others or being taught how to commit crimes. For example, children who grow up in malfunctioned families that engage in criminal behavior can learn to become criminals. A boy who watches his father beat his mother is more likely to grow up and beat his wife or girlfriend. The children that are witnesses to this behavior learn how to commit crimes.

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Is Criminal Behavior Learned or Does Your Dna Already Predispose You at Birth to Criminal Behavior?. (2017, Mar 11). Retrieved from

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