Violence is… inherited?

There are as many arguments on whether violence is inherited as there are on whether drug addiction is inherited. I’m not a scientist, and I really don’t care about the scientific findings on the matter, because I still really believe it’s just an opinion. Unless there is a study out there that tests everyone in the world, I don’t believe it. I don’t believe violence is inherited, because there are a lot of things to consider:

  • Where did that person come from?
  • What is his/her past?
  • What was the environment like?
  • Are they diagnosed with anything behavioral-related?

Even though a person may be born into violence, it doesn’t mean they’re going to be violent. I wasn’t born into it, but I grew up around a lot of it. I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of because I was under the influence of violence, but it’s possible to come away from that. Sometimes, however, it’s not. Violence is a learned thing. You can take a child away from a violent family when they’re born and put them into a home that will love them. If you take them out later, a violent personality is more likely to happen simply because they’ve had the chance to be exposed to it.

A proper “study” to determine such a hypothesis to be true — that violence is inherited — would need to consist of babies being taken away from violent environments right after birth — something I highly doubt could really come into play considering people who are violent don’t just give their babies away or make their violent personas known to the world; they hide in and blend in with crowds fairly well. Babies in violent families would also need to be monitored — another impossible thing, since everyone involved would deliberately allow for child abuse to happen.

It’s like taking me, a child of a mother with Bipolar Disorder, and assuming I’m such, or that I will have such, even though I’ve been tested multiple times and don’t have it. The most accurate portrayal of the disorder that I can relate to is seen in Silver Linings Playbook, a movie I can’t even watch because of how close to home it hits. I’m not like that.

I came from a violent mother, but I’m not violent. None of her children are violent from her, but I’ve seen violence in them that has been learned. Maybe some of their violence comes from lard, as he is violent as well, but I still feel and believe it is learned.

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Comments on this post

Melissa’s gravatar

I completely agree with you 100%. I know there are studies out there (studies can also contradict each other due to bias / internal politics) that say it is, and it isn’t. But I firmly believe it’s not genetically inherited.

The argument that “Because your parents were violent means you’ll be violent” is environmental, and it does *increase* the likelihood of *some* people to be violent because that’s what they’ve known. But it’s not 100% either. Like you said, you’re not violent. I’d bet most people that were exposed to violence probably shy away from it, honestly.

Agent Q’s gravatar

While violence is not inherited in and of itself, we must acknowledge the propensity of individuals exposed to violent households becoming violent themselves because these violent ways are the norm. Unless the kid consciously frees him/herself from the vicious cycle, these habits are very likely to be repeated. Then there is the effects of drugs that could compromise the kid’s neurological development which holds the key to self improvement.

All in all, I do believe that violence is learned. However, we cannot deny the strong association between exposure to violence and the outcome that is internalizing violent tendencies. Fortunately, I personally know many people who made the effort to break free from that. Mad respect right there. 😎

Kristine’s gravatar

This post brings up thoughts of “nature vs. nurture” for me. Like you, I believe is definitely learned. Perhaps the inherited trait of violence can stem from a short temper that causes a violent tendency. Perhaps the inherited trait of violence can be provoked by the environment itself. Like everything else, things are not always clear or black or white.

My father is violent and because of that, my sisters and I have had very violent fights with each other. We learned it from our father who has had demonstrated violence towards us many times.

Because I no longer live in the household from hell and am about 5-6 hrs away, I no longer feel like I have any violent impulses. My sisters are nowhere near me to aggravate me or instigate conflict. My father is also no where near me to instill such behaviors. I feel that living in the household from hell induces a violent rage because of the atmosphere that my father brings upon the house. It’s weird, but there’s just a lot of negativity that I can just feel when he’s around.

I can honestly say that because I no longer live in that house, I no longer have the urge to be violent. I learned the violence from my father, but I am now able to overcome the urge because I am no longer under his tyranny.

Liz’s gravatar

“I can honestly say that because I no longer live in that house, I no longer have the urge to be violent. I learned the violence from my father, but I am now able to overcome the urge because I am no longer under his tyranny.”

I really like this, because I relate to it well; no longer living with my mom and lard, I don’t feel as volatile or have the urge to participate in much violence. I do have Tourette’s, and that tends to make me angry and whatnot, but for the most part, it’s not fed on a daily basis and made worse.

<3

Crystal’s gravatar

My theory, (based only on what I have lived) is that it completely depends on the person. I think if you’re the victim of it chronically, you might have residual effects. Depending on how you cope, depends on the outcome really. I find myself sometimes getting angry with my son, like my parents did with me. Yet, I don’t unleash on him what they did on me. Still, it’s fairly common for men abused by their fathers to abuse others… it really just depends.

Crystal’s gravatar

I should also note, that adoption is a big part of my life, and I have also seen both traits of parents not in a child’s life and children who wholly take to nurture. So, again. I don’t think it’s something that can be nailed down in any meaningful way. /wtf

Stephanie’s gravatar

If I’m right, violence is part genetic and part learned, but much more learned than genetic. I’m pretty sure that because genes can actually activated and deactivated (“epigenetics”) that having a violent parent will make you more likely to be violent, even if you’re adopted into a nonviolent family. I don’t know what the exact numbers are, but it could be that your chances of being a violent person could be 15% (grew up in a violent household + violent genes), 10% (violent genes + grew up in a calm household), and 5% (no violent genes + grew up in a calm household). Those made-up numbers are statistically significant differences, but they mean that no matter who you are, you are more likely than not to be nonviolent.

You’re right in that you can never know something for sure until you test every single person. That’s why social scientists make use of “statistical significance” and confidence intervals to make their best guess they could possibly make from their data. If you’re going to look at studies, look for “meta-studies” or “review papers” or “surveys”. These papers collect data from lots of studies and pool them together to draw a much sounder conclusion, and they will point out which studies might have poor methodologies.

(I find that the press is absolutely horrible at knowing the difference between normal studies and meta-studies. Normal studies usually have too small sample sizes to not contradict one another once in a while. The press also tends to exaggerates things and ignore the statistical analyses and margins of error.)