Biosocial Theories of Criminal Causation
Discuss the major principles of the biosocial theories of criminal causation. Then explain the Human Genome Project (HGP). Finally, discuss criticisms that have been waged against the biosocial theories of criminal causation.
Biosocial Theories of Criminal Causation
The Major Principles of the Biosocial Theories of Criminal Causation
Researchers have always attempted to establish the biological determinants associated with violence and crime. Biosocial criminology holds the idea that environmental and biological factors have a close association with criminal behaviors. According to Eichelberger and Barnes (2015), biosocial theories of criminal causation can be described as the general research paradigms analyzing all the factors related to the causation of antisocial behavior ranging from genetic influences to biological influences like hormone levels. Additionally, neurological factors are also considered concerning environmental impacts such as exposure to poverty and socialization. As such, biosocial criminology suggests that criminal behavior is a product of several factors and mot just social and environmental factors, but biological factors also play an essential role. Eichelberger and Barnes (2015) argue that the interaction of social and biological factors provides the right recipe for a person to develop or display criminal behavior. For instance, an individual who had birth complications then grew up in a homestead that was disruptive is likely to develop criminal tendencies. This discussion recognizes the essential principles of the biosocial theories of criminal causation to be factors like genetics, early health risks, hormones, neuropsychology, and psycho-physiology, and they will be discussed below.
Early Health Risks
There is substantial evidence showing that early health risks have a close association with biosocial criminology. For instance, various factors like alcohol or nicotine exposure, minor birth defects, or birth complications can contribute to the development of criminal behaviors, especially when combined with other environmental factors (Coyne & Wright, 2015). For example, a child exposed to nicotine during pregnancy is likely to develop criminal behaviors as an adult, primarily when raised in a stressful environment.
Some studies have suggested that aggression can be passed from one generation to another. Farmer (2004) argues that long term aggressive behavior is likely to be passed to the next generation, and maltreated children are expected to demonstrate different behaviors in their lifetimes based on their genotypes. However, Farmer (2004) notes that a person’s genotype cannot be used alone to predict a person’s behavior, but other factors like environmental surroundings have to be considered.
According to Biocriminologists, minimum levels of minerals and vitamins are required to enhance healthy brain function. Additionally, medical research shows that proper nutrition forms an essential part of early childhood development, and it can lead to severe mental and behavioral challenges. With improved diet quality, Coyne and Wright (2015) show that it reduces delinquency while dramatically improving mental health and academic performance among adolescents. According to some studies, there is a secure link between insufficient vitamins B3, B6, and C quantities and the development of antisocial behaviors while diets rich in carbohydrates and sugars are associated with violence and aggression (Coyne & Wright, 2015). These factors demonstrate that nutritional deficiency is a crucial principle of biosocial theories of crime causation.
Allergies develop as a consequence of the body, reacting to foreign substances with cerebral allergies, causing reactions to the brain. Allergies affecting the Neuro system also tend to affect the nervous system, and they are linked to emotional, mental, and behavioral challenges (Eichelberger & Barnes, 2015). Although allergies do not cause violence directly, Eichelberger and Barnes (2015) argue that individuals suffering from stress resulting from painful allergic reactions tend to act violently, especially when exposed to negative stimuli.
Exposure to Environmental Contaminants
Sociobiological scholars are drawing connections between the development of antisocial behaviorism and aggression to exposure to toxic contaminants like mercury, copper, food dyes, and chlorine, among others. For example, (Naicker, Jager, Naidoo & Mathee, 2018) study found that communities exposed to lead have been reporting high incidences of homicide and other aggressive behaviors. Additionally, lead poisoning has been established to be a massive predictor of lower I.Q. scores, persistent adult criminality, and male delinquency (Naicker, Jager, Naidoo, & Mathee, 2018). As such, sociobiological researchers believe that there is a secure link between youth criminality and their exposure to different environmental contaminants.
Some biological researchers have established that some physical and neurological abnormalities that are acquired in the early stages of life have the potential to impact the behavior of an individual throughout their lifespan. The key focus of these studies has been on how essential brain functions are impaired by this factor leading to weak motor and problem-solving skills, which are factors likely to increase the chances of violent behavior and criminality developing (Coyne & Wright, 2015). As such, Neurophysiological Conditions remain significant factors providing the right recipe for a person to create or display criminal behavior
The Human Genome Project (HGP)
The Human Genome Project refers to international research efforts made to establish the human genome sequence and also identify the genes contained in it. This project was a coordinated effort between the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health. At the same time, international partners from the UK, Germany, France, and some Asian countries, alongside universities across the U.S., made contributions (Richards & Hawley, 2005). Through this collaborative effort, the project started in 1990 and completed in 2003, which was two years ahead of the initial schedule (Richards & Hawley, 2005). Through the work done on the Human Genome Project, researchers now understand the guide for building an individual. With researchers actively acquiring more information about the various gene and protein functions, the knowledge gained will impact the biotechnology and medical field significantly.
The Criticisms against the Biosocial Theories of Criminal Causation
There are several criticisms leveled against biosocial theorists within them, is that its research is usually faced with numerous methodological challenges. In other words, many biosocial studies are based on unrepresentative samples that don’t adequately control the impact associated with social variables. Additionally, biosocial theories are criticized for failing to explain temporal and regional differences relating to violent crime rates. For instance, these studies cannot be used to describe why a particular region has higher crime rates compared to another or biosocial theories are unable to account for violent behavior changes overtime (Eichelberger & Barnes, 2015). An example would be that a given region may experience a spike in violent crimes over a specified period and then suddenly begin to decline. Unfortunately, sociobiological theories cannot be able to explain such developments on their own.
Certain biosocial criminologists are also accused of class and racial bias in their studies. For instance, if biology can explain violent crime and the racial minorities and poor people commit numerous violent acts of crime, it implies that these people are genetically flawed or inferior (Coyne & Wright, 2015). As such, the critics suggest that such research could be more productive and accurate if it mainly focused on social factors like racism, economic strain, and oppression, among others that lead to class and racial difference in behaviors instead of spending a lot of time trying to understand the genetic makeup of criminality (Coyne & Wright, 2015).
Critics of Biosocial Theories of Criminal Causation
Despite the extensive research and the compelling evidence provided by the biosocial theories of criminal causation, they have faced numerous criticisms over the years. Some of the major criticisms include:
Reductionism: Critics argue that biosocial theories tend to reduce criminal behavior to simple biological or genetic factors, ignoring the complex interplay between biology and the environment. This reductionist approach does not accurately reflect the complex nature of criminal behavior.
Determinism: Biosocial theories have been criticized for their deterministic approach, which suggests that individuals are predetermined to engage in criminal behavior based on their biology or genetics. This approach disregards the role of individual agency and the impact of environmental factors.
Ethical Concerns: Biosocial theories raise ethical concerns regarding the potential use of genetic information to predict and label individuals as criminal. This information could be used to discriminate against certain individuals, violating their human rights.
Lack of Evidence: Despite the significant research efforts, the evidence linking biology and genetics to criminal behavior remains inconclusive. Critics argue that more rigorous scientific research is needed to establish a strong causal link between biology and crime.
Cultural Bias: Some critics argue that biosocial theories reflect cultural biases and assumptions about crime and criminality. The theories may perpetuate stereotypes and ignore cultural differences and complexities.
The biosocial theories of criminal causation are a complex and controversial area of study that continues to generate debates and criticisms. While there is evidence that biology and genetics may play a role in criminal behavior, it is important to consider the interplay between biology and the environment and to approach the study of criminal behavior with a holistic and nuanced perspective
Coyne, M. A., & Wright, J. P. (2015). Biosocial Approaches: Crime. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 670–675. DOI: 10.1016/b978-0-08-097086-8.45086-5
Eichelberger, R., & Barnes, J. C. (2015). Biosocial Criminology. The Encyclopedia of Crime & Punishment, 1–8. DOI: 10.1002/9781118519639.wbecp185
Farmer, A. (2004). Bad Luck and Bad Genes in Depression. Behavior Genetics Principles: Perspectives in Development, Personality, and Psychopathology., 107–121. DOI: 10.1037/10684-007
Naicker, N., Jager, P. D., Naidoo, S., & Mathee, A. (2018). Is There a Relationship between Lead Exposure and Aggressive Behavior in Shooters? International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(7), 1427. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph15071427
Richards, J. E., & Hawley, R. S. (2005). The Human Genome Project. The Human Genome, 279–286. DOI: 10.1016/b978-012333462-6/50033-5.