This paper identifies and discusses the main points in the article by Widom (1991) titled "A Tail on an Untold Tale: Response To 'Biological and Genetic Contributors to Violence: Widom's Untold Tale.'" Widom (1991) responds to DiLalla & Gottesman (1991) commentary article titled "Biological and Genetic Contributors to Violence--Widom's Untold Tale." In their article DiLalla & Gottesman (1991) argues that Wisdom omitted the contribution of biological and genetic factors on criminal behavior in her research on the effect of child abuse and neglect on violent behavior.
Widom (1991) begins her response by stating that her literature review focused on the association between child neglect and ill-treatment on violent behavior and not on antisocial behavior, criminality or delinquency. She emphasizes that delinquency was introduced in the study for purposes of examining many aspects of her hypothesis. To this end, her literature review was not general but specific. Indeed, there are many determinants of violent behavior as identified by many researchers namely personality (Sinha, 2016), psychosocial (Newton & Bussey, 2012), socio-cultural (Albu, Lobont, Moldovan & Kuloglu, 2013) and biological (Wilson & Scarpa, 2012).
Widom (1991) argues that there is little evidence that biological or genetic factors have the influence on child abuse and neglect. However, she acknowledges that the biological variables can exacerbate the consequences of early adverse experiences such as neglect. This view is shared by Belsky et al. (2009) who argue that not all persons exposed to adverse childhood conditions develop poor outcomes; factors such as genetic predispositions play a role. It must be understood that Widom's review was done more than two decades ago. Since then, new evidence continues to emerge linking biological or genetic factors to behaviors such abuse though not directly. Smearman, et al. (2016), for example, established that oxytocin receptor gene plays a role in the relationship between abuse and later adult behaviors which may include violence. They argue that in adverse conditions, oxytocin produces negative outcomes such as abuse. Cicchetti & Rogosch (2012) also established that resilient functioning of children was dependent on the interaction between their genes and development experiences.
The response article by Widom (1991) cast doubts on the use of studies that does not directly link antisocial personality and delinquency to genetics. She argues that studies show that crime, for instance, is not highly heritable. She also argues that there is no direct relationship between aggressiveness and criminal or violent behavior. This view contradicts widely acknowledged perspective that certain personality traits increase individuals' propensity for violence. The question that requires an answer is whether aggressiveness is such as character trait. Indeed, aggression and violence are intimately related that many studies (Duxbury & Whittington, 2005; Nowak, Krcmar & Farrar, 2008; Dickens, Piccirillo & Alderman, 2013) consider the two concepts to be having the similar causes. In fact, physical violence is seen as an extreme form of aggressiveness (Batrinos, 2012).
On the issue of the influence of testosterone on criminal behavior, Widom (1991) says that it is true. She argues that a study established that young noncriminal men with no history of aggressiveness had high of testosterone level. Jansen et al. (2015) argue that while testosterone regulates aggressive behavior, few studies have investigated its impacts on humans and produced inconsistent results. Widom also does not think that physiological factors have a strong correlation with aggression but contribute to the behavior. Bobadilla, Wampler & Taylor (2012) found that a proactive e aggression was linked to low physiological reactivity to anxiety.
DiLalla & Gottesman (1991) and Widom (1991) agree that temperamental differences are one of the determinants of whether abused children become abusive parents. Widom adds other variables that include cognitive appraisal and intelligence. While DiLalla & Gottesman (1991) attributes temperament to adverse outcomes such as adjustment problem, Widom thinks that in some cases, the behavior can protect a child. In summary, the article by Widom is a critique of a review done by DiLalla & Gottesman (1991) on biological and genetic predictors of violence.
Albu, C., Lobont, O., Moldovan, N., & Kuloglu, A. (2013). The criminal behavior in Romanian socio-cultural contemporary context. Economic Computation & Economic Cybernetics Studies & Research, 47(4), 1-14.
Batrinos, M. L. (2012). Testosterone and aggressive behavior in man. International journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 10(3), 563-568.
Bobadilla, L., Wampler, M., & Taylor, J. (2012). Proactive and Reactive Aggression are Associated with Different Physiological and Personality Profiles. Journal Of Social & Clinical Psychology, 31(5), 458-487.
Cicchetti, D., & Rogosch, F. A. (2012). Gene Environment interaction and resilience: Effects of child maltreatment and serotonin, corticotropin releasing hormone, dopamine, and oxytocin genes. Development and psychopathology, 24(02), 411-427.
Dickens, G., Piccirillo, M., & Alderman, N. (2013). Causes and management of aggression and violence in a forensic mental health service: Perspectives of nurses and patients. International Journal Of Mental Health Nursing, 22(6), 532-544.
DiLalla, L., & Gottesman, I. (1991). Biological and genetic contributors to violence--Widom's untold tale. Psychological Bulletin, 109(1), 125.
Duxbury, J., & Whittington, R. (2005). Causes and management of patient aggression and violence: staff and patient perspectives. Journal Of Advanced Nursing, 50(5), 469-478.
Jansen, L. C., et al. (2015). Testosterone and cortisol in relation to aggression in a non-clinical sample of boys and girls. Aggressive Behavior, 41(5), 478-487.
Newton, N. C., & Bussey, K. (2012). The age of reason: An examination of psychosocial factors involved in delinquent behaviour. Legal & Criminological Psychology, 17(1), 75-88.
Nowak, K. L., Krcmar, M., & Farrar, K. M. (2008). The Causes and Consequences of Presence: Considering the Influence of Violent Video Games on Presence and Aggression. Presence: Teleoperators & Virtual Environments, 17(3), 256-268.
Sinha, S. (2016). Personality correlates of criminals: A comparative study between normal controls and criminals. Industrial Psychiatry Journal, 25(1), 41-46.
Smearman, E. L., et.al (2016). Oxytocin Receptor Genetic and Epigenetic Variations: Association With Child Abuse and Adult Psychiatric Symptoms. Child Development, 87(1), 122-134.
Wilson, L. C., & Scarpa, A. (2012). Criminal Behavior: The Need for an Integrative Approach That Incorporates Biological Influences. Journal Of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 28(3), 366-381. doi:10.1177/1043986212450232
Wisdom, C. S. (A tail on an untold tale: Response to `biological and genetic contributors to violence--Widom's.. (1991). Psychological Bulletin, 109(1), 130.
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