Like father, like son. The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. A chip off the old block. We’ve all been guilty of repeating these old idioms when we want to prove how alike our children are to us. Not just in appearance but in behavior and emotionally as well. It comes as no surprise when the brilliant surgeon’s child grows up to become a phenomenal doctor or a single family has a line of policeman through the generations. Despite all this, DNA predisposition and hereditary traits won’t get you far as a defense in criminal court. Hence, the nature VS nurture debate.
Could it be that our childhood has much more to do with the way we behave as an adult than we realize? There certainly is valid reason to believe it. Beginning in the 1960’s, psychologists have unearthed research showing that children who were raised by criminal parents are more likely to be criminal adults. Despite this fact, most children who are abused do not go on to abuse.
In 2002, a study was released of men who were mistreated as children, a specific variation of a gene could predict antisocial behavior and is present in most men who have been abused. The study focused on production of an enzyme associated in small levels with aggression in mice called monoamine oxidase A.
Abused boys possessing the variant gene responsible for producing monoamine oxidase A in small levels were predisposed to developing violent dispositions, personality disorders and committing crimes. Boys raised in similar circumstances who produced higher levels of monoamine oxidase A developed no such problems. Conversely, a 2010 study of psychopathic tendencies in teens raised in low socioeconomic conditions showed a variation of a gene that sped up serotonin recycling in the brain. It is linked to hostile actions and early signs of psychopathy in children. Infamous killers are case in point to these facts. While 70’s serial killer Ted Bundy had a stable childhood, his exposure to pornography at an early age helped shape his fantasies. Richard Ramirez was subjected to murderous rampages of his demented war-torn uncle in his childhood.
What we know for certain seems to be that it takes a combination of both nature and nurture to make a true criminal personality. No one certain formula exists that will predict the perfect criminal profile, but we can make a pretty good guess when given the proper information. The sins of our fathers will not necessarily become our own but there is damn good chance at it.