For decades, criminological theories have been dominated by sociological and political perspectives to explain crime than biological and genetic factors. Not to state that all sociological and political perspectives are flawed, but these perspectives within traditional criminology are not complete and do not offer a full assessment of all the contributions of criminal behavior. This paper aims to offer why traditional Criminology avoids biological explanations, what traditional Criminology attempts to explain criminal behavior, and how Criminology has traditionally overlooked biology and genetics and what the potential consequences may be.
The Classical School, one of the most well-known criminology schools, noted that humans are rational and free thinking to make their own decisions. The Classical School assumed that people understood all of the laws in place and with that understanding, calculates the greatest happiness against the pain of punishment. This theory is known as rational choice theory. Rational choice theory also specifies that all complex social singularities are driven by individual actions. This assumption of the greatest happiness shared by the greatest number is the core concept of utilitarianism. According to Cessare Beccaria, a famous Italian scholar who was a firm believer in the concept of utilitarianism, believed that for a punishment to be effective, it must be public, prompt, and dictated by law. The punishment in no case is more what is
Crime is adaptation to life stress. It is best understood in terms of the manner in which the individual experiences the biological, psychological and socially determined situations of his existence. (Halleck, 1967, p. 63) The modern police department was born out of urban mob violence that tormented the nation’s cities during the nineteenth century. The new police departments were replacements for the night-watch systems and relegated constables and sheriffs to serving court orders and running jails. Early police agencies were corrupt, brutal, and inefficient. (Walker, Popular Justice, 61) While some people are predisposed to criminal activity. The predisposition to crime is formed from the biological and psychological theories of crime and criminal behavior. The earliest studies on delinquents and criminal conduct sought to explain the presence of criminal behavior based on intuitions obtained from the biological sciences. This is not to suggest that biological theories are neutral in social, psychological, or environmental correlates; rather, the organic approach to delinquency and crime believes that the physical, neuropsychological, and chemical components of human nature offer more persuasive evidence than do all other alternatives. (Arrigo 8) The origin of human actions include aggressive, violent, and even criminal behavior – reside within the personality structure or cognitive processes of the individual. In this way delinquency and crime are not reducible to
This paper summarizes four theories of criminology. Rational choice theory states that criminals act based on a thought process that weighs the pros and cons of criminality. Criminologists who believe in this theory feel that most criminals are people capable of having rational thoughts before committing a crime. Trait theory is the view of criminology that suggests criminality is a product of abnormal biological or psychological traits. Criminologists who believe in this theory feel that criminals choose to commit crime because of a brain anomaly or chemical imbalance. Social structure theory is “a view that disadvantaged economic class position is a primary cause of crime” (Seigel 139). Those who follow this theory often believe social forces can have a great effect on whether or not a person commits a crime. An example would be those who are poor are more being more prone to commit crime. Social process theory is a view that criminality depends on how a person interacts with different organizations and institutions and processes in society. For example, a family would be considered
Biological factors alone are not a sufficient reason why crime occurs. An example would be looking at testosterone and adult deviance. Most studies have shown no correlation with circulating testosterone and behavior. However, there is significance to examining biological factors. The answer lies in the fact that biological explanations of crime understate the important role of social conditions. (Conklin, p 93). When looking at biological and social combined, there is a moderately strong relationship between testosterone and social integration while growing up. Social integration can be fragmented due to less social opportunities by being in lower-class status, unmarried, and an unstable work history. (Conklin, p 96).
It was not a topic that was brought up earlier, because there was tainted history of using biology to figure logistics of criminal behavior. Instead, criminologists look at social and environmental factors such as poverty rates, drug/weapon accessibility, and socialization. Over 100 studies have shown genes play a role in crime. Kevin Beaver, an associate professor at Florida State University’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice states approximately 50 percent of a human’s aggressive behavior is comprised of the thousands of expressed genes affected by the environment (Cohen). The other half of a human’s aggressive behavior is usually environmental or social factors such as, neighborhood, wealth, and education. It is important to also know the other factors that “make” someone a criminal because it will also help researcher see what else contributes to criminal activity (Eysenck).
Biological Theories are vastly growing with fascinating research. The main stump is concretely linking it to criminal behavior, because some theories are more relatable than others. Theories involving temperament and hormones give real life biological explanations, while others like extrovert and introvert behaviors, and neuroticism explain a weaker link to crime. However, all theories are valuable in exploring the root of crime.
Though ration choice theory does not completely explain why crime takes place, it does have its strengths and provides a thought-provoking point on the occurrences of crime. Rational choice theory is, what is known as offender specific, in other words, criminals make decisions and assess their skills before a committing law-breaking offense. The métier in this is that it promotes responsibility of consequences, you did the crime, therefore, you should do the crime. The thinking here is that because you were careful in your planning on the execution of the crime, you are guilty. Although I do not totally buy into this argument, it is understandable to believe that because individuals who commit robbery, carefully select their target, wait
The biological theories are essential to the criminal justice profession so that they won't assume that a person's genetic characteristics cause a person to commit a crime. However, there are born criminals and “these types of criminals are the most dangerous, and can be identified through his or her stigmata or identifying characteristics” (Akers, Sellers, See, & Kieser, 2013, p. 10). Biological theories are the bases for severe criminal behavior mostly found among people who are born with an innate impulse to commit a
First, psychological theory suggests that a person’s environment and past can influence their ability and desire to commit crime while biological theory suggest a person’s DNA makeup could influence their ability to commit crime. “Biological theories within the field of criminology attempt to explain behaviors contrary to societal expectations through examination of
When looking at criminal activity and the direct connection to the criminal behavior we see that there have been many research trials that have taken place over the history of humankind (Mishra & Lalumiere, 2008). Two of these research areas that have been developed to attempt to understand the causes of criminal behavior are known as biological and psychological perspectives of crime causation. These two sectors have their principles that are held in their theories as a standard scientific understanding of the basics that each evaluation of criminal behavior is built on (Dretske, 2004).
The causes of crime seem to be indefinite and ever changing. In the 19th century, slum poverty was blamed; in the 20th century, a childhood without love was blamed (Adams 152). In the era going into the new millennium, most experts and theorists have given up all hope in trying to pinpoint one single aspect that causes crime. Many experts believe some people are natural born criminals who are born with criminal mindsets, and this is unchangeable. However, criminals are not a product of heredity. They are a product of their environment and how they react to it. This may seem like a bogus assumption, but is undoubtedly true.
Choice theory was born out of the perspective of crime causation which states that criminality is the result of conscious choice. This theory is also known as the rational choice theory. According to this theory, the choice whether or not to commit a criminal act is the result of a rational thought process that weighs the risks of paying the costs of committing a crime, against the benefits obtained. In other words, if the benefits--monetary or otherwise--outweigh the risks of sustaining the costs, such as fines, imprisonment or execution, then according to this theory the individual would be inclined to commit the crime, all other things being equal. In this calculus, the benefits are known. For example, “this diamond that I want to
The Classical School of Criminology was developed by two utilitarian philosophers, Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham during the early 17th century. The Classical School of Criminology is an important theory in the framework of criminal behavior, with principle themes that include: criminal acts are of individuals free will and rational deliberation, calculating, and hedonistic beings. Criminals make a rational choice and choose criminal acts due to maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. As well as minimizing crime, the would be offender must be convinced that the likely punishment for the crime would be swift, certain and proportionately (Paternoster & Bachman, 2001, p. 11).
The search for causes of crime forms the basis of most criminological studies. There are numerous explanations for crime: psychological, evolutionary, genetical,
People chose all behavior and including all criminal behavior. Which in this case the choices that criminals make brings them pleasure and adrenaline. Criminal choices can be controlled by fear of punishment, but not all the time. The crime will be limited when the benefits are reduced and the costs increase. Rational choice theory is a perspective that holds criminality in the result of conscious choice. Not to mention, that it is predicted that individuals choose to commit crime when the benefits outweigh the costs of disobeying the law. In the rational choice theory, individuals are seen as motivated offenders by their needs, wants and goals that express their preferences. This theory has been applied to a wide of range in crime, such as robbery, drug use, vandalism, and white collar crime. Furthermore, rational choice theory had a revival in sociology in the early 1960s, under the heading of exchange theory, and by the end of the decade was having a renewed influence in criminology, first as control theory and later as routine activities theory.
Figuring out why people commit crimes is one of the central concerns of criminology. Do most criminals act rationally after weighing the costs of crime? Is society ever to blame for an individual to commit a crime? Do mental diseases or even genetics factor into whether a person will live a life of crime. Over the years, many people have developed theories to try to answer these questions. In fact, the number of theories of why people commit crimes sometimes seems to equal the number of criminologists. I explore these questions and much more in the paper that follow.