You may not be aware of a case that’s just come to a conclusion in London involving two young boys, 10 and 11, who were convicted of trying to rape an eight year old girl. Okay, that’s pretty sick, I grant you. I don’t care what universe you’re from.

Well, it started a discussion in our house — were the kids made that way or born that way? You know, the old ‘nature vs nurture’ argument. And my answer is I still don’t know.

We all love Hannibal LecterI write about it all the time in one guise or another, but I have to say I can’t give a clear rationale as to what makes a child do this sort of thing to another child. My inner armchair psychiatrist is of the opinion that psychopaths (if they exist) and sociopaths are probably genetically deficient somehow. God forbid we should take credit for “making” them into monsters.

But are these two young boys genetically ‘broken’ somehow? Or are they products of their environment?

Based on where they lived, it would be easy to make generalisations about their lives and the strata (we can’t say class) of society they lived in. You know the sort: underprivileged upbringing, no man in the house, council-estate scum, bullied at school, generally unloved. I think that’s just lazy.

As a slight aside, I loved (perhaps ‘hated’ is a stronger word) the rather misguided notion the Tory party (British conservatives, for those who don’t know – part of our new government) came up with in the early ‘90s about the ills of society being all the fault of single mothers. It just came across as ‘how dare they be single mothers?!?!

Frankly, it’s pants. I know single mothers of all sorts and I don’t think they love their children any less than two-parent nuclear units. I’ve seen two-parent families that are far more dysfunctional, damaging and generally unhealthy, in fact.

There are times when it seems a good idea for parents to take a test to see if they’re going to be suitable parents or the creators of the next psychopath. (Don’t write in, please, I said ‘there are times it seems a good idea’, not ‘it is a good idea’.)

I do believe that our childhood environment does affect how we view the world and, perhaps more importantly, how we interact with it. There are still so many things we don’t know about the human brain – we may never work out how it all fits together.

I guess my personal feeling is that I am the sum of my experiences, genetics being responsible for things like my prematurely grey hair or my very poor eyesight, not my penchant for milk chocolate Hobnobs or beer, although there could be a genetic marker for alcoholism. Could I have been a monster? Oh, I think so, given the right environmental variables.

But don’t we have the choice to ignore our upbringing and be the person we want to be? I’d like to think so, although it may depend on one’s personal strength of character (don’t get me started on bullying, that’s another post).

And I guess I never wanted to be a monster. Does anyone?