I just read "Defending Jacob" by William Landay. It was a page-turner about the propensity toward criminal, psychopathic aggression. Does it run in families? Is it genetically-transmitted, environmentally-propelled, a combination? I've worked as a forensic psychologist with my share of murderers, manslaughterers, addicts, thieves, and, especially, victims. Often, the criminals and victims are the same people, especially in the case of sexual and physical abuse .
Not only does aggression run in familities, but suicidal behavior, mood swings, mental illness and hyperactivity/impulsivity do, too, even when the biologically-related people don't live together. I think of an adopted child following completely in her bio mom's footsteps into drugs and crime, despite her adopted home of middle class dignity. I think of the little boy whose imprisoned father never saw him and his mother already can't control his rambunctious, rebellious behavior. He fights with everyone at day care.We are used to following the blood line pattern and expecting the worst.
Then, I have to stop short and remember the cases in which people overcame abuse and genetic vualnerability to prove themselves productive and wholesome contributers to society. I think of the teacher whose parents were killed by her brother, the doctor whose father was a crime boss, and the good mom whose own mom killed her father. We don't hear about survival in these tragic cases because the people who have moved beyond their criminal, violent heritage don't want to look back.
We honestly don't know if the child of horrible, aggessive criminals has to follow suit, if we treat that child with kindness and respect and model consructive channeling of energy. We can only try our best in those cases, hope for a good outcome and keep a vigilant watch.