Born Or Made: The Role of Genetics and Childhood Experiences in Violent Criminals

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1991 |

Pages: 4|

10 min read

Published: Feb 8, 2022

Words: 1991|Pages: 4|10 min read

Published: Feb 8, 2022

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Is childhood upbringing a leading factor in psychopathy?
  3. Biological
    Upbringing / family factors
  4. What common elements attract someone to violence?
  5. Conclusion
  6. References


A violent crime is considered to be a crime in which the perpetrator uses or threatens force upon their victims. This is evident in crimes such as murder, rape and theft. The violent act within a crime, is what makes a person a violent criminal. Whether the violence is the means to an end of a crime or the prerogative it still falls in the category of being a violent criminal (Psychiatry Advisor. 2019).

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Violent criminals often have excessive charm and are exceedingly good at manipulation, to gather sympathy for themselves they are usually quite good at spinning stories and making themselves into victims of every situation. Doing this can help them commit their crimes easier, as doing so often will get their victims to go to them and offer help instead of them having to plan how to capture them without notice. Serial killers will usually plan out a murder for months at a time before enacting them and will have all the small details planned out. They are exceedingly competent at finding out information on their victims and will commonly know everything about their victims before progressing to the next stage.

Psychopathy is a spectrum disorder, which can be defined as a mental incapacity disorder, nearly 1% of the earth’s population is psychopathic, however most don’t have violent tendencies and will not act upon their urges, instead they might indulge in illegal and sexual impulses with an inability to learn from their mistakes.

The main psychological features involved in psychopathy include lack of empathy, no emotional change between words, exhibiting a pattern of violence and an intense fear of being alone. 70% of people are born with good character and a moral instinct, however with abuse and mistreatment this instinct can be supressed. Psychopaths and violent criminals often display their lack of moral conduct as a result of their abusive upbringings. Studies have also shown stress can trigger the psychopathic disorder, especially those left feeling vulnerable and powerless. Most successful serial killers only completed high school and didn’t progress to further education, although they are found to have high IQ’s as serial killers must still be clever and manipulative to dispose of their victims corpses whilst still being smart enough to leave no traces of evidence to the police.

Those that have been affected by the psychopathic gene, often have excessive superficial charm, and are alarmingly good at manipulation and using the victim card which helps give them a sense of self worth.

Commonly, violent criminals are known to have been abusive to animals in their childhood before progressing to harming humans. It is believed to be that they do this to make themselves feel powerful and in control of the situation, as many of them as young children often felt vulnerable and powerless and this helped give them security and fulfilment. Serial killers are usually bullied as children, and become abusive and insecure adults to ensure they make themselves feel more secure within themselves.

Is childhood upbringing a leading factor in psychopathy?


A child’s biological factors are not fully responsible for their adult psychopathic tendencies; however, they are considered significant as the psychopathic gene is considered to be a hereditary gene that is passed down through generations. The development of the traits associated with psychopathy are typically drilled in through early childhood traumatic experiences and they progress as they age.

In some cases the brains frontal lobe, which is considered responsible for the behaviour that influences stables and rational decisions is damaged, when the frontal lobe is damaged it affects the ability to think clearly and experience empathy, if the limbic system is damaged, it is a factor that can cause uncontrollable anger and aggression; that without that injury might have caused them to act differently and not react as harshly as they just did. Small accidents, such as someone hitting their head has been known for them to develop psychopathic tendencies as the smallest injury on the brain can be fatal (Psychology and the Brain 2019).

Due to the complexity of the human brain, it is currently extremely difficult for them to develop methods of fixing that part of the brain, and tactics to rehabilitate them are currently unknown. If this is further studied, the statistics of active psychopathy can be tamed and supressed.

Upbringing / family factors

Statistics show that the trauma a child experiences before they reach the age of 6, can shape their entire mindsets and is a leading cause in adult psychopathy. When a child grows up in an abusive household, that is their social norm for them to grow up in and leads them into forming bad habits as adults and having a lack of respect for other humans when they grow up (Shout Out UK. 2019.).

Serial killer Ted Bundy grew up believing his mother was actually his sister and struggled when he found out the real truth. His grandfather also was physically abusive to him and his mother, children that grow up in households with low respect of women grow into adults with the same mindsets with the belief that women are below them and deserve to be punished for their wrongdoings (Robert Lee Yates, 2019).

The trauma a child experiences at a young age is greatly affected at forming their individual personalities, and with trauma experienced this can often lead them into reclusive personalities, giving them the lack of important social skills needed to grow up and be successful in their adult lives (Psychiatry Advisor. 2019)

Growing up in an abusive household can lead them to grow up with anger they feel as though they can’t express and as adults with so much pent up rage it gives them the inability to process proper emotions maturely and calm down. This can cause them to have unstable moods and be considered mentally unstable. Having a stable family life is greatly beneficial to a growing child as it helps form the skills needed to create lasting relationships, without this young and disturbed child are growing up into irrational and disturbed adults.

What common elements attract someone to violence?

If the psychopathy disorder is genetically determined, abnormality in the brain scans should be an immediate source of the psychopathic traits and how high on the spectrum it is. Brain scans have revealed that psychopathy within criminals is associated with decreased connectivity between the amygdala, a subcortical structure of the brain that produces the negative stimuli and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a cortical region of the front of the brain that interprets the response from the amygdala.

When the connectivity between these two regions is low, processing of negative stimuli in the amygdala does not translate into any strongly felt negative emotions. This fits well into the picture we have of psychopaths. They do not feel nervous or embarrassed when they are caught doing something bad. They do not feel sad when other people suffer. Though they feel physical pain, they are not themselves in a position to suffer from emotions hurts. Many numerous factors that determine our behaviour and whether a person is at risk for developing violent tendencies. These factors include biological traits, family bonding, individual characteristics, intelligence and education, child development, peer relationships, cultural shaping and resiliency.

One factor can affect and be affected by another factor. When the accumulation of negative factors (such as maltreatment or psychological problems) and the absence of positive factors (such as opportunities to be successful, adults who provide encouragement, or a reasonable temperament) reach a high level, that's when violence is more likely to erupt as a means of coping with life's problems. Notorious serial killer and rapist Ted Bundy took the lives of innocent women because he 'harboured a grudge' against his first girlfriend who broke his heart, Bundy was sentenced to death after he admitted murdering 30 female college students across three different states in the 1970s and claimed responsibility for dozens of others after he was finally brought to justice.


Understanding how and why serial killers commit such horrific crimes is an important step to stopping the homicidal rampages they go on. Scientists searched and found what is believed to be hard evidence, that genetics is the key role in determining who becomes a serial killer unlike criminologists and psychologists who argue that large events such as abuse and abandonment create the setting and foundation in which serial killers grow into sadistic mass murders.

Though both arguments are strongly proved and explained through research and statistics neither are individually the answer to why serial killers exist. In reviewing the evidence of both explanations, I have found that it is a mix of both genetics and cultural upbringings. Though many humans must deal with violent situations as children and experience horrific events many do not become mass murderers. It is true that many children who are victims of abuse become violent in their adult lives but to cross into the category of a serial killer one must be born with a different biochemical makeup.

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In my conclusion nature does choose what traits we are born with but at the same time these traits cannot be exposed without a mechanism that triggers these individuals to commit these horrific crimes. Without the alignment of both natural genetic defects and the cultural nurturing in which humans are brought up in, serial killers cannot become vicious killers. If we can curb domestic violence, then the chances for a serial killer to become violent will decrease significantly making our world a safer place.


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Born Or Made: The Role Of Genetics And Childhood Experiences In Violent Criminals. (2022, February 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 19, 2024, from
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Born Or Made: The Role Of Genetics And Childhood Experiences In Violent Criminals. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 19 Jun. 2024].
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