Criminology | Section 4.2

Fundamentals of Criminology by Adam J. McKee

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Hormones and Criminal Tendencies

Hormones are chemical messengers that are produced by glands in the endocrine system and are released into the bloodstream to regulate various physiological processes in the body. Some hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen, are well-known for their role in sexual development and behavior. However, hormones can also influence other aspects of behavior, including aggression.

The relationship between hormones and behavior is complex and multifaceted, and the role of hormones in aggression and other forms of criminal behavior is an area of active research. This paper aims to review the current evidence on the link between hormones and criminal tendencies, with a focus on aggression, impulsivity, risk-taking behavior, and overall criminal behavior.

Hormones and aggression

Aggression is a complex behavior that can be defined as any form of behavior that is intended to harm or injure another individual. The link between hormones and aggression has been studied extensively in both animals and humans, and several hormones have been implicated in regulating aggressive behavior.

One hormone that has been consistently linked to aggression is testosterone. Testosterone is a steroid hormone that is produced primarily in the testes in men and in the ovaries in women, although small amounts are also produced in the adrenal glands. Testosterone levels are higher in males compared to females. They are thought to play a role in the development of male secondary sexual characteristics, such as facial and body hair and a deeper voice. Testosterone has also been linked to aggression in both animals and humans.

Animal studies have consistently found that manipulations of testosterone levels can alter aggressive behavior. For example, castration reduces testosterone levels and has been shown to reduce aggression in male rats (Kruk et al., 1992). Similarly, the administration of testosterone has been found to increase aggression in male rodents (O’Connor et al., 1997).

Human studies have also found a link between testosterone and aggression. One study found that men with higher testosterone levels were more likely to engage in aggressive behavior, such as starting physical fights, compared to men with lower testosterone levels (Dabbs et al., 1995). However, it is important to note that the relationship between testosterone and aggression is complex and may be moderated by other factors, such as social context and individual differences in personality.

Other hormones that have been linked to aggression include cortisol, which is a hormone produced in response to stress, and vasopressin, which is a hormone involved in the regulation of social behavior. Elevated levels of cortisol have been associated with increased aggression in both animals and humans (Koolhaas et al., 1999; Slattery et al., 2015), and vasopressin has been linked to aggressive behavior in animals (Olazábal et al., 2006).

In addition to the hormones mentioned above, there is also evidence that other hormones, such as oxytocin and serotonin, may play a role in the regulation of aggressive behavior. Oxytocin, which is sometimes referred to as the “love hormone,” has been found to have both pro-social and anti-social effects on behavior, depending on the context (De Dreu et al., 2010). Serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter involved in mood and emotion, has been linked to aggression in some studies (Coccaro et al., 1989), although the evidence is mixed.

Overall, the evidence suggests that hormones, particularly testosterone and cortisol, may play a role in the regulation of aggressive behavior. However, the relationship between hormones and aggression is complex and may be moderated by other factors, such as social context and individual differences in personality.

Hormones and impulsivity

Impulsivity is a tendency to act on urges or desires without fully thinking through the consequences of one’s actions. Like aggression, impulsivity is a complex behavior that is influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics, environment, and brain function. Research has also suggested that hormones may play a role in the regulation of impulsivity.

One hormone that has been linked to impulsivity is testosterone. As mentioned earlier, testosterone has been linked to aggressive behavior, and aggression and impulsivity are often related. Some studies have found that testosterone is associated with impulsivity in both animals and humans (Dabbs et al., 1995; Klimstra et al., 2010).

Other hormones that have been linked to impulsivity include cortisol and dopamine. Cortisol, which is a hormone produced in response to stress, has been found to be related to impulsivity in some studies (Slattery et al., 2015). Dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter involved in reward and pleasure, has also been linked to impulsivity (Moeller et al., 2001).

Hormones and risk-taking behavior

Risk-taking behavior refers to the willingness to engage in activities that involve potential risks or dangers. Like aggression and impulsivity, risk-taking behavior is a complex behavior that is influenced by a variety of factors. Research has suggested that hormones may play a role in the regulation of risk-taking behavior.

One hormone that has been linked to risk-taking behavior is testosterone. Testosterone has been found to be related to risk-taking behavior in both animals and humans (Dabbs et al., 1995; Mehta et al., 2011). In animal studies, manipulations of testosterone levels have been found to alter risk-taking behavior (O’Connor et al., 1997). In human studies, higher testosterone levels have been found to be associated with increased risk-taking behavior in men (Dabbs et al., 1995).

Other hormones that have been linked to risk-taking behavior include cortisol and dopamine. Cortisol, which is a hormone produced in response to stress, has been found to be related to risk-taking behavior in some studies (Slattery et al., 2015). Dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter involved in reward and pleasure, has also been linked to risk-taking behavior (Moeller et al., 2001).

Hormones and criminal behavior

Criminal behavior refers to behaviors that are illegal or against societal norms. There is evidence to suggest that hormones may play a role in the development of criminal behavior.

One hormone that has been linked to criminal behavior is testosterone. As mentioned earlier, testosterone has been linked to aggression, impulsivity, and risk-taking behavior, all of which are behaviors that may contribute to criminal behavior. Some studies have found that men with higher testosterone levels are more likely to engage in criminal behavior (Dabbs et al., 1995; Hormes et al., 2010).

Other hormones that have been linked to criminal behavior include cortisol and dopamine. Cortisol, which is a hormone produced in response to stress, has been found to be related to criminal behavior in some studies (Slattery et al., 2015). Dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter involved in reward and pleasure, has also been linked to criminal behavior (Moeller et al., 2001).

Conclusions

the evidence suggests that hormones may play a role in the development of criminal tendencies, particularly aggression, impulsivity, risk-taking behavior, and overall criminal behavior. However, the relationship between hormones and criminal tendencies is complex and may be influenced by other factors, such as genetics, environment, and brain function. Further research is needed to better understand the role of hormones in criminal behavior and to identify potential interventions for reducing criminal tendencies.

References

Coccaro, E. F., Kavoussi, R. J., & Berman, M. E. (1989). Serotonin function and aggressive behavior. Advances in Biological Psychiatry, 10, 121-141.

De Dreu, C. K. W., Greer, L. L., Handgraaf, M. J. J., Shalvi, S., Van Kleef, G. A., Baas, M., & Feith, S. W. (2010). Oxytocin promotes human ethnocentrism. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(14), 662-665.

Dabbs, J. M., Hargrove, M. F., & Heusel, C. (1995). Testosterone, crime, and misbehavior among 692 male prison inmates. Personality and Individual Differences, 18(4), 627-633.

Hormes, J. M., van Honk, J., & Hermans, E. J. (2010). Testosterone reduces amygdala activity in response to crying infants. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 5(1), 35-41.

Klimstra, S., Frijns, T., & Crone, E. A. (2010). Testosterone administration increases risk taking in healthy adolescent boys. Psychological Science, 21(8), 1061-1065.

Koolhaas, J. M., de Boer, S. F., van der Vegt, B. J., de Jong, I. C., Korte, S. M., & van der Meer, A. D. (1999). Coping styles in animals

 

 

 

Modification History

File Created:  08/04/2018

Last Modified:  08/04/2018

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