Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

Is Violence Caused By Nurture?

parentsfightingNature vs Nurture is an ongoing debate that has been going on for centuries. Of course, neither side really has a strong argument that leans the debate to one side…yet.

Several studies have been trying to prove that it’s actually nurture that causes violence, especially in children. Not to mention all the various statistics that prove that children in particular conditions are more likely to commit violent acts.

One of the earliest studies is perhaps one of the most famous psychological studies of all time. This is The Bobo Doll Experiment. (Bandura, 1961). The video below explains the key concepts of the experiment.

This was a matched-pairs design experiment in which children were separated into three groups. The first being 24 children being exposed to an aggressive role model. The second being 24 children being exposed to a non-aggressive role model and the third being a control group with no model at all.

bandura-bobo_doll.jpgWith no surprise, children in the first group were more likely to imitate the violent acts committed by their role model than those in the second group. The second group copied their role model and didn’t do violent acts against the doll. This shows a strong correlation with monkey see-monkey do and shows that a child’s violence can be affected by the environment around them.

While this experiment was designed to investigate the social behaviours acquired by observation and imitation (Simple Psychology, 2014), the experiment also shows how the type of role models a child has can influence their violence behaviours. This is a form of nurture as a child’s upbringing can really influence their chances of committing violent acts.

Speaking of a child’s upbringing, a child’s social environment is a major key factor in terms of violence.

“Human social environments encompass the immediate physical surroundings, social relationships and cultural milicus within which defined groups of people function and interact.” (Barnett & Casper, 2011)

Kids-drawing-of-attack-jpg-723x1024The experiences a child has while growing up have a high capability of shaping how they see the world and can have direct impacts on their ability to make rational decisions. In this particular case, a child may see something as rational while others may see it as completely irrational.

It’s actually statistically proven that a child who was physically abused as a child, this experience would lead to the child performing violent acts in the future. In fact, people who are abused as a child are almost five times more likely to engage in a violent criminal offence than the general public as an adult. Child-Poster-full-size

A study involving more than 2,700 child abuse victims showed a strong link between childhood experience and adult criminality. (Institute of Criminology, 1964-2012).

Upbringing is so much more than being abused as a child though. The type of conditions they are brought up in can also be a massive influence. For example, it’s statistically proven that children in low socio-economic status are more likely to partake in violent acts than those in high socio-economic status.

Another key thing in the nurture debate is witnessing violence around them as a child. If children see their parents always fighting, they are more likely to do the same actions when they start their own family, in which case creates a never-ending cycle of violence in children.

Next week, I look at the argument from a nature point of view. Is it possible that violent acts are actually caused by a chemical imbalance of the brain or psychopathy more? Only one way to find out…stay tuned.



Barnett, E., & Casper, M., (2001), A Definition of “Social Environment”. Morgantown, WV: American Journal of Public Health.

Hegger, J., (2015), Nature Vs. Nurture: Which Causes Crime, Community Corrections Insights, <;

McLeod, S. A., (2014), Bobo Doll Experiment, Simply Psychology, <>

Salehi, E., (2012), Environmental Factors and Urban Crime,<>

Taylor, G., (2012), Abused Children More Likely To Commit Crimes, ABC News, <;










One comment on “Is Violence Caused By Nurture?

  1. Pingback: Is Nature The Reason For Violence? | Deakin Communicating Science 2016

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