Discuss the impact of environmental factors, in particular crime and trauma, on the psychological development of an individual. Discuss the impact of ‘nature versus nurture’ in the context of crime, both the perspective of the victim and the criminal.
By Arhita Del Fierro Year 11 Student Caroline Chisholm Catholic College
Crime and trauma are major societal factors that affect the mental development of an individual. In the development of a person, the innate traits impact the way a person lives. The reason for this is that the individual is accustomed to their natural components even before they were born into the world. Natural features of an individual include their type of gender, hair colour, skin colour and any other traits and physical features that are inherited by their parents. In contrast, nurture influences the growth of an individual based on their upbringing and surrounding environment. The person’s guardians or, simply people who surround the individual expose behavioural patterns of influence. A criminal develops when either or all of these nature or nurture features are corrupted. There are three major theories that can determine why a person grows to become a criminal or a victim. These theories include the psychoanalytic theory where at early growth an individual may have been brought up incorrectly as they don’t socialise properly and therefore become antisocial which results in either becoming traumatic or deviant. Another theory is the cognitive development theory where the individual refuses to act morally and neglects the law. Learning theory suggests that an individual learns tactics and ways from surrounding parties that commit crimes without being punished. Being immersed in a context without consequences regularly coerces the individual to behave immorally and without a sense of justice.
An individual that has encountered crime and resulted to either criminal behaviour or traumatic behaviour risks stable psychological development. A person that has been part of a criminal situation may experience various post-reactions. These after effects may include immediate and short term reactions which may occur immediately after the crime and lasts for about three months. Natural elements that shape a criminal offender are if healthy behaviours are not properly established from birth (neonatal phase) due to various kinds of damage. It is important that the mother consumes a balanced diet in order for their child to develop correctly. The cognitive development of a baby will be impacted, if for example alcohol and drug consumption is consumed by their mother during pregnancy. It is shown according to the Global Health care site “WebMD” that the consumption of alcohol by a pregnant mother affects the development of her child. If a pregnant woman decides to consume drugs, she puts her infant at risk of experiencing birth defects by which are either physical and/or mental. Regardless of how much the individual will try to control and remove their defects they will never go away – which is why it is a natural element of the development of a criminal due to the defects from birth. An ERA that collected blood samples from thirty criminal defendants were evaluated by forensic psychiatrist, William Bernet of Vanderbilt University, located in Tennessee. The results show, that the criminals that were tested mostly were high in a gene called Monoamine Oxidase A (MAO-A) also known as the warrior gene as it’s associated with violence. Conversely, victims can be shaped by nature through the same sort of areas that are part of their born traits. If a mother does not consume a balanced diet her child may be also at risk of developing mental disorders. Using the example of a mother who makes unhealthy lifestyle choices, her child may experience difficulties, which include bonding and feeding as a newborn. This means that as the child grows he/she may isolate themselves from others, which is a concerning habit that can lead to being fragile, afraid of almost everything, or potentially a victim. Individual’s that have anticipated a violent assault usually become very shocked surprised and highly terrified which then also results to becoming a victim according to Victim Support™. Perpetrators or victims who have encountered crime in their history are at a greater risk of establishing emotional problems and traumas than newly victimised individuals. Victims who have experienced an offence in the past are more likely to be traumatised than a victim that has just been offended. This is because trauma experienced by a victim in the past leads to gaining fear if they were to encounter another criminal event. Victims are always concerned about their safety and their family members’ safety. Individuals in this effect may also experience negative changes where their beliefs and trust simply don’t exist anymore due to the loss of support from others or from themselves. Though throughout time the individual may experience depression, suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide due to the impact of the crime by the consumption of drugs.
Nurture, on the other hand involves elements that can shape a criminal and/or victim based on their surrounding environment. This is basically the way the individual is brought up. Parents or guardians that the individual may encounter on a regular basis influence the way they choose to act and respond to events. If an individual is surrounded by violent behaviours which include abuse – verbal or physical, law-breaking activities – illegal actions including drug influence, shop lifting etc., this influence is recognised in psychoanalytic theory – where immoral behaviours are developed through the individual’s upbringing. The learning theory plays a role as well – where the individual learns from the acting parties around them. Learning theory also explains how nurture impacts upon the individual: an individual who is immersed in an abusive, negative social context may develop habits overtime which may lead to criminal behaviour. In the unresolved criminal case of the death of four year old, Darcey Freeman on the 29th January 2009 due to her father Arthur Freeman throwing her off the Westgate Bridge in Melbourne, Australia – there are elements of criminal and psychological behaviour that occurs in this case. It was told that the reason why Mr Freeman had thrown his daughter over the Westgate Bridge was to payback his ex-wife, Peta Barnes, for not giving Freeman custody after their divorce. In the event of throwing Darcey off the bridge though it impacted Freeman’s mental well-being, as well as his families, the attack also shocked the broader community. Witnesses that were in the situation at the time had told news stations that they will carry that burden of guilt and anxiety in their hearts for eternity. Psychologist Jennifer Neoh, assessed Freeman based on interviews that were held three weeks before Darcey’s death in relation to custody arrangements. Freeman’s lack of remorse for his daughter’s killing reflects his poorly developed mental awareness. Conversely, individuals can put themselves in situations whereby they can make themselves become victims. Using the defamation case in 2010, swimwear model, Lara Bingle had started proceedings to sue AFL footballer, Brendan Fevola, for allegedly distributing her revealing photo during their brief affair in 2006. The image eventually reached the cover of Woman’s Day magazine. Bingle argued that the photo was misused and the photo was taken and distributed without her consent. Though, it was immoral for Fevola to take the photo and spread it, Bingle put herself on the line. As a swimwear model, Bingle initially has to show lots of skin for her shoots. When the photo was leaked, Bingle’s respect towards her started to change. Bingle had felt “violated” from the distribution of that photo and very “embarrassed.” She had told Herald Sun at the time that she felt “exploited and compromised from the release of that photograph.” Fevola and Bingle were in a small affair which didn’t last long at the time the shot was taken. Bingle believed that Fevola had deleted the photo but instead he used it to defame her. She claims that she clearly “trusted” the wrong person. Luckily for Bingle she had the support from her friends and family which made it easier for her to recover from this incident and slowly she has gotten back on track with her life and career. Unfortunately, victims that experience similar events of trauma do not always have the same support that Bingle had. When the individual loses support from others so does their self-confidence. As a result anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts will follow.
The mental development of an individual may be disrupted if one encounters with criminal or traumatic events. External behaviours as well as natural or heredity factors together work as key components to influence a person’s disposition. Some traits are inevitable and some are a progressive change. A natural feature of a person is one that is born with traits and physical features including their gender, hair colour or skin colour etc. Nurture on the other hand, is when an individual is influenced through the way they have been brought up as well as they’re surrounding environment. Nature and nurture can shape a criminal or victim but the bottom line is what plays a bigger role in the development of a person? If either ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’ is disrupted the individual may experience severe psychological impairments, either as a victim or a criminal. Criminals and victims aren’t who they are by birth. Though, if a hereditary trait such as anger management was found in an individual’s family’s background the likelihood is that the individual will also have anger management. This trait normally leads to deviant behaviour which can result to turning criminal. In contrast, if a person was to grow up in an abusive household in future they may result to being criminal as the individual grew up with that behaviour. If a person was to undergo a traumatic event that really impacts their mental and/or physical development, a scar of trauma will be marked upon them and they can potentially be victimised. Both events shape a criminal and victim and the debate will be never ending as there is not a final answer to whether nature or nurture plays bigger roles in the development of a victim or criminal in the events of crime or trauma.