Can nature (heredity) or nurture (environment) explain crimes? It may be said from the onset that scientists have not been able to locate a gene or group of genes that cause criminal behaviour. A grand genome project, started since 1990, had the ambitious task of identifying the 20 000 to 25 000 genes in the human body. It reported its findings in 2003, but no gene for crime was found. Genes have influence on human behaviour. Scientists have not ruled out the fact that heredity influences temperament. You may have noticed the differences immediately in the temperament of newborn babies. There are some who are restless and others who are calm or in between. Temperament endures (Myers; 2004). It would, however, help if restless children are channelled in the right direction and good behaviour is developed.
Good parenting is of extreme importance. This important role is sometimes left to chance. Many parents have good intentions, but are unprepared for the rigours of child rearing. We sometimes adopt the same techniques that our parents used, as we recall our own childhood. This is a far more challenging world than that of our parents and the parents are younger today. Many might be able to visit websites that deal with good parenting, but there is a need to find ways and means to reach out to many parents who do not have computers. Perhaps we can utilize the radio and television to provide some strong messages to parents about child rearing. We have to save our people from destruction, because everyone is at risk, if not as offenders, then as victims.
Anger and lack of self-control
Many of the murders that are reported appear to be associated with anger and lack of self-control. A heated argument between two persons could end with the death of one and more so where a weapon is available. If we were to look back to the childhood days of those who lose their temper, it is likely that one would find evidence of insecurity, mistreatment and lack of self-control. These persons could have been helped and a crime avoided if the problem was identified early and anger management was undertaken.
There is no doubt about the need to set a good foundation in the formative years of a child. The world impacts heavily on the young. A child needs the love, security and protection of supporting parents, relatives and friends. A child could be drawn into a vicious cycle if he is abused or is the victim of aggression. Parents, therefore, must be aware of what goes on in the lives of their children. Those who are responsible for molding the lives of young people need to look at the impact of such negative influences as drugs, television and peer pressure. The amount of gun violence now is astounding and I make bold to say that if guns were not available there would be less crimes.
Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
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