criminal justice

Trait Theory of Crime Causation:

In the early twentieth century, a number of leading criminologists theorized that crime was caused not so much be choice but by human traits such as: size, shape, intelligence, mental state, etc. This view was first originated by an Italian army physician named Cesare Lombroso. Using Lombroso’s work as a starting point, modern day criminologists branched off into two different schools of thought known as Biological and Psychological Theories of crime causation.

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Biological Theory is broken down into three main areas – Biochemical factors, Neurological factors, and Genetic Factors. Biological theory of crime causation attempts to link a biological explanation to the question of why do people commit crime.

Biochemical factors – include diet, environmental contaminants, and even allergies as they relate to antisocial and criminal behavior. Even medications that a person may take that would have an unusual and negative effect on one’s personality.

Neurological Factors – study the relationship between brain activity to antisocial behavior and criminality. They study violent behavior that has been linked to brain tumors, brain injuries, and other central nervous system diseases.

Genetic factors – are concerned with the role heredity plays in producing crime-prone people. Early research indicates a positive relationship between the criminality of an individual and his biological father. This still does not solve the debate of Nature vs. Nurture. Is the positive relationship caused by the inherited genes passed on from the father to the son (nature) or does the child’s criminal behavior reflect that of the fathers because of how the person was raised (nurture).

Psychological Theory: Psychological views of crime causation can be divided into four main areas of study: Psychoanalytic theory, Behavioral theory, Cognitive theory, and Physiological theory.

Psychoanalytic theory – created by the Viennese doctor Sigmund Freud. Freud and his followers believe in the existence of two basic instinctual human drives present at birth – sex and aggression. These drives are normally repressed into the unconscious and re-channeled into productive modes of behavior. Some Psychoanalysts believe that criminals and anti-social people suffer from a personality disorder and as a result, they seek immediate gratification of their needs without consideration of right and wrong and the needs of others.

Behavioral Theory: Asserts that behavior is leered through interactions with other people. Simply stated, behavior that is rewarded becomes habitual; and behavior that is punished opposed to Biological theory, Behavioral theory makes the strongest case for nurture over nature when it comes to people’s behavior. This leads to questions such as how much influence does the media (television, movies, music, and video games) have over the way people behave in society. Most importantly what influence might those outlets have over our youth? Does listening to music laced with violence affect the way teenagers will act in society? How about violent video games that many of our younger people play? Can they become desensitized and more prone to violence because of such games?

Cognitive theory: Cognitive psychologists are concerned with the way people perceive the world around them. They report that a majority of criminal’s outlooks on life are characterized by self-interest while law abiding citizens are more likely to consider the rights of others and are concerned with maintaining the rules of society.

Physiological theory: Physiological psychologists search for relationships between physical properties such as brain cell activity or biochemical reactions and behavior.
One area of particular interest in physiological psychology is the identification of the psychopathic personality. True psychopaths are believed to be dangerous, aggressive, antisocial individuals. True psychopaths may appear to be charming at times and have at least normal or above average levels of intelligence but they lack emotional depth and are incapable of caring for other human beings. Psychopathy has been linked to the phenomenon of serial killers. Not all psychopaths are serial killers but just about all serial killers are psychopaths.

Scientists, using advances in DNA and other technologies, are trying to identify a criminal gene which if present in someone, would greatly predispose that individual to becoming a criminal in society.

Assignment #7
2. Looking at the paragraph on Behavioral Theory – do you think that violence in the various forms of media such as music, movies, video games and music will have an impact on how young people will develop in terms of their tolerance for violence and criminality?
3. Would young people who are exposed to a lot of violence in these media forms themselves be more prone to violence and criminality?
4. As stated in the final sentence above the assignment: if scientists are successful in identifying a gene whose presence would greatly predispose an individual to criminality, would you want people to be tested at birth for the gene (why or why not)?
5. What do you think should be done about people who do test positive for the criminal gene?

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