Genetic Theory on Crimes: Is Evil Really Born That Way?

Many people believe in the miracle that a gene could do in the development of an offspring. They say that the roots (biological parents) determine what a child would be when he grow up. If he is born from a criminal parent, chances are, he would turn out to be criminal in the future. Are criminal tendencies really that palpable that people could already detect the future of a criminal’s child? How credible is the genetic theory with regards to crime?

Certain crimes seem more evil to us than others do. Crimes planned in advance, aimed at hurting a weaker victim, committed for pleasure, with no mitigating circumstances, are evil. While some theories in criminology believe that criminality is a function of individual socialization and how individuals have been influenced by their experiences or relationships with family relationships, peer groups, teachers, church, authority figures, and other agents of socialization, others seemed more submerged into thinking that genes have something to do with criminal tendencies. This paper will determine how reliable is the genetic theory and how does it affect the society. Is it applicable or not?


According to the reference material there are actually people born criminals and non criminals (p 34). This however, suggests that some people carry with them some potential to be violent or anti-social. On the other hand, (Elkins, 1997) states that there is actually no gene for the evil. The evidence seems to point instead to the likelihood that

Genetic Theory on Crimes: Is evil really born that way?

evil people are those who just happen, for genetic or other biological reasons, to be unusually high or low on traits that all of us share to one degree or another.

These traits probably have a normal distribution, like height. If you happen, because of the genes you received from your parents, to be at the very upper end of this normal distribution, seven feet tall, for example, you might find yourself in demand by basketball coaches. If you also happened, probably also for genetic reasons, to have an unusual degree of physical coordination, the combination of height and superior athletic ability would make you a very good basketball player. And if, in addition to that, you were far above the mean in competitiveness, then you may end up earning millions of dollars in the NBA. The NBA selects the males who are furthest from the mean on several normally-distributed traits.

Furthermore, Offending was very much concentrated in families. Just 4 per cent of the 400 families accounted for 50 per cent of all convictions of all family members. The worst offenders tended to be from large-sized, multi-problem families. Most juvenile and young adult offences occurred with other people, but this co-offending declined with age. Co-offending with brothers was not uncommon when the siblings were close in age but co-offending with fathers (or mothers) was very rare. The most common crimes in late teens were burglary, shoplifting, theft of and from vehicles, and vandalism. All of these declined in the twenties, but theft from work increased, Self reports showed that 96 per cent of the males had committed at least one crime that might have led to conviction, so criminal behavior was not deviant (Hale 1998)

Genetic Theory on Crimes: Is evil really born that way?

Any one of the factors in criminality independently predicts offending and the following suggestions are made as to the reasons for this. Children from poorer families are more likely to offend because, due to poor school attainment and an inability to manipulate abstract concepts, they are less able to achieve their goals legally. Impulsive children cannot see the consequences of their actions and desire immediate gratification. Children who are exposed to poor childrearing practices, conflict or separation do not build up inhibitions against antisocial behavior. Lastly, children from criminal families and those with delinquent friends develop anti-establishment attitudes and the belief that it is justifiable to offend. This research demonstrates that problem children grow into problem adults who in turn produce problem children. Sooner or later serious measures must be taken to break this cycle (Conger, 1976)


The evidence does not prove that criminals are born that way. The evidence can still be explained in terms of a poor environment. It may suit politicians to believe in biological explanations, as the cure could be simpler and cheaper than accepting that poverty and a poor environment are major determinants of criminal behaviour. Setting to rights the ills of society could be politically and financially difficult. Drugs and surgery have dealt with genetic problems in the past. In the earlier part of the 20th century, the eugenics movement led to 27 US states having compulsory sterilization of the feeble minded. The Nazis killed those whom they deemed to possess an inferior genetic makeup.

Christian implications

The genetic theory is not applicable. Test results suggest that genes do not explicitly determine criminality of a person. Morally, we don’t have the right to judge. It is not necessarily true that when a criminal produces an offspring, the offspring is already a born criminal. No, he might have the tendency or the impulsivity but the environment is that, which really molds the attitude and behavior of the person. If a child grew up in a Christian community, he will be developed morally upright and spiritually nourished. There are no chances that evil will succumb to a god-fearing person.


Julie Harrower (1998), Applying Psychology to Crime, Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 0340-70556-6.

Conger, R. (1976). “Social Control and Social Learning: A Synthesis.” Criminology 14:17-40

Hale, R. (1998). “The Application of Learning Theory to Serial Murder or You, Too, Can Learn to be a Serial Killer,” Pp. 75-84 in R. Holmes & S.

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