Sample essay: Can scientists detect criminal tendencies in a child by mapping his brain at age 3?

This question was asked on an IELTS test held in France in July 2012. This question is taken from

Some scientists claim that they can tell whether a child will become a criminal by examining his brain at the age of 3. Do you agree that crime is a product of human nature? Do you think we can stop children from becoming criminals?

Model Answer

Is there any criminal who cannot be reformed? Are criminal tendencies hardwired into the brain? Some scientists claim that they can detect criminal tendencies in a child by examining him or her at the age of 3. Is it true? Are some people born criminals? Can’t we stop our kids from becoming criminals? Let’s examine.

Conventional wisdom has always preached that the most significant factor that influences character formation is the upbringing a child receives. If he is brought up by good parents, then he is also going to be good when he grows up. In the same way, children surrounded by criminals during their formative years are more likely to exhibit criminal tendencies. That means character is something that we can shape.

However, none of these are absolute rules. In fact, there are several exceptions. Children born to kind parents can sometimes grow into cruel, unsympathetic adults. In this case, all that good upbringing they received from their parents couldn’t reform them. In the same way, children born to hardcore criminals can sometimes grow into sympathetic, conscientious adults. They are unlikely to have received a good upbringing, but that didn’t prevent them from becoming good adults.

In other words although upbringing and education play a significant role in shaping a person’s character, they aren’t the only factors that decide whether a child will grow into a responsible adult or not. In fact, there could be quite a few other factors which are equally important and some of them could be biological. If that is indeed so, then the scientists who claim that by brain mapping a child they can detect his criminal tendencies might be correct. Even so, it is too early to claim that the structure of a person’s brain is the only factor that determiners his character. It could be one of the factors, but it can’t be the only factor because history is replete with examples of criminals who were reformed by love and kindness. Even wild animals tend to respond amiably when we treat them with love.

After analyzing the situation it is not hard to see that a person’s inherent nature or the structure of his brain can play a role in determining his character. However, it would be wrong to assume that crime is merely a product of our nature. It is equally wrong to claim that there is nothing that we can do to prevent our kids from becoming criminals.

Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I'm Manjusha. This is my blog where I give IELTS preparation tips.

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