Nature vs nurture is a well-known debate. But where does history fit in?
“Rethinking Criminal Propensity and Character: Cohort Inequalities and the Power of Social Change” - https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdf/10.1086/716005 is a comprehensive 60+ page article that reveals just how important history is.
In this essay, Robert J. Sampson and L. Ash Smith “argue that it is time for a comprehensive inquiry into the changing meanings, validity, sources, and implications of the twinned concepts of criminal propensity and character—along with implications for prediction—in contemporary criminal justice policies and theories of crime.” They “do so by focusing on the last several decades of crime and justice in America that have seen the rise of mass incarceration and proactive policing, dramatic declines in violence, and now criminal justice reform. The social transformations of crime and punishment in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries make this an especially propitious moment to take stock and recast our understanding of characterological approaches to crime and criminalization.”
The evidence they “review reveals that entire cohorts of children have come of age in such radically different historical contexts that traditional markers of criminal character, such as arrest, are as much a function of social change as of an individual’s early life propensities and background characteristics, including classic risk factors emphasized in criminology (e.g., poverty, parental criminality). This body of work indicates that crime over the life course is fundamentally shaped by historical and social conditions and must be theorized as such, and that cohort comparisons are a key strategy for doing so.”
They “conclude that developmental and life-course criminology should elevate the study of social context and change and, ultimately, societal character.”
As you’ll see, this essay doesn’t reject individual characteristics or individual pathways of crime but emphasizes that they must be analyzed in interactions with historical change.
Do you think that history should have a more prominent spot in forensic psychology? Is when we are as important as who we are?