Is criminal behavior, or at least the tendency toward criminal acts, a result of the interplay between both “nature” and “nurture”? I believe that it is.
Although I would agree with the majority of Americans who believe that that criminal behavior, or at least the tendency toward criminal acts, is a result of the interplay between both nature and nurture, or a combination of both genetic and environmental influences, in my opinion it is the learned behavior, or environmental factors that play the greatest part.
Much of learned behavior is culturally-based and defined as normal or acceptable across a wide variety of sub-cultural contexts. We develop our values from our parents, our teachers, our small community groups, our spiritual influences or religious disciplines, and so on. Whether we are considering what accounts for a “normal” display of anger- is it a harsh word? A slap or a swear word, or is throwing something across the room acceptable? Or perhaps a display of anger includes even more dramatic violence..- or a display of a more positive emotion such as love and affection- is it a smile? A positive word or encouragement? Kissing in public, or a hug between a father and son? What we learn, and what we view as normal and acceptable behavior can be greatly attributed to what we see as we develop.
For instance, if a child is raised in an environment where lying, stealing, or assault are considered normal activities (from anything to failing to return incorrect change and bragging about “getting over” on the cashier, to cheating on income taxes, committing fraud on insurance, whatever…to using or selling illicit drugs, trafficking in stolen identities, or just beating the crap out of someone you disagree with) this child is more likely to view this as acceptable behavior.
Obviously, there are many degrees of criminal behavior. I believe that if you are raised to feel that the laws of society apply to YOU, meaning you don’t speed, you return the library books you check out, you don’t shoplift, you don’t do illegal drugs, you don’t drive under the influence of alcohol, you don’t beat your children or spouse, you don’t leave the scene of an accident, and you don’t cheat, lie, steal or any of those other things, then you are have learned along the way the difference between right, or wrong. If you are able to control your frustration when someone cuts you off on the freeway, you can also learn to control your frustration when other negative situations arise. You have to learn and accept the “little no-no’s” before you can learn the big taboos.