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Biosocial and Trait Theories of Crime

Biosocial and Trait Theories of Crime

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Biosocial and Trait Theories of Crime

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  1. Biosocial and Trait Theories of Crime Part II

  2. The Impact of Cesare Lombroso • Lombroso’s perspective was the dominant theory in the early 1900s • Argued criminals were less evolved than noncriminals • Throwbacks to our ancestors • However, this perspective and other biological theories were soon discredited and abandoned

  3. Sociological Theories of Crime and Deviance • After biological theories were discredited, sociological theories began to dominate the field • Remain dominant today • Differences in the social environment explain crime • Family, school, peer group, community • Argue there are no individual differences between criminals and noncriminals

  4. Reemergence of Individual-Level Theories • Criminologists have begun to criticize the exclusive focus on social environments • Focus on individual differences and the influence of these differences on the likelihood of crime

  5. Reemergence of Individual- Level Theories • Much more sophisticated than Lombroso in three ways: • Focus on a broader range of biological factors • Genetic inheritance and “biological harms” • Argue these traits do not directly lead to crime but contribute to crime • Rather, they affect the central and autonomous nervous systems • Recognize that the social environment influences whether or not the biological factors lead to the development of certain traits and whether or not these traits lead to crime

  6. The Importance of Examining Individual/Biological Factors • Two main reasons to examine biological factors: • Biological factors can interact with the social environment to produce crime • Influence how individuals respond to their environment • Individuals may respond to same environment differently • Individual traits may influence the social environment in ways that may increase the likelihood of crime • May evoke responses from others and/or seek out risky peers/situations • Failure to consider biological factors and individual traits may result in inaccurate estimates of the effect of social factors on crime

  7. Modern-Day Biological Theories – Biosocial • Due to the importance of both the social environment and biology, modern work on biology and crime are called biosocial • Biosocial theorists argue that sociological theories of crime would benefit from consideration of biological factors and individual traits • For example, irritability and intelligence can influence the extent a person is exposed to strain

  8. Modern-Day Biological Theories – Biosocial • At the most general level, modern-day biological theories argue: • Biological and environmental factors influence the development of traits conducive to crime • Traits conducive to crime influence the social environment in ways that increase the likelihood of crime • Crime is most likely among individuals who possess traits conducive to crime and are in aversive environments

  9. Modern-Day Biological Theories – Biosocial • Glueck and Glueck examined the impact of biological, sociological, and social factors in the explanation of crime • Sought to explain why people respond to different environments in different ways • Took a life-course approach examining how the causes of crime develop from childhood to adulthood

  10. Glueck and Glueck: Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency • Glueck and Glueck examined a (1950) matched sample of 500 delinquent and 500 nondelinquent boys • White males ages 10 to 17 matched on age, race, neighborhood characteristics, and intelligence • Delinquents from two juvenile reformatories in Massachusetts and nondelinquents from Boston public schools • The Glueck’s followed up with the boys at ages 25 and 32 • Sutherland attacked this work, saying it was a theoretical and downplayed sociological factors • Sociologists rejected the work, saying it was flawed methodologically and portrayed offenders as biologically deficient

  11. Glueck and Glueck: Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency • Argued we needed a multidisciplinary study of crime • Should focus on a variety of factors that could cause crime, unlike sociologic research • Sociological reasoning on the causes of crime assumes that the mass social stimulus to behavior is alone or is the primary significant causal force • This ignores two facts: • In every society, there are individuals who do not conform to the laws • Differences exist in the responses of various individuals or classes of persons to many of the elements in a culture-complex of a region

  12. Glueck and Glueck: Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency • Argued that area-studies (e.g., social disorganization research) establish a region of economic and cultural disorganization that tend to have a criminogenic effect on people, but these studies fail to emphasize that this influence affects only a selected group of people and not all the residents in that area • Do not explain why the criminogenic influences of these areas fail to turn the majority of its boys into persistent delinquents • Argue the varieties of the physical, mental, and social history of different people must determine the way in which people are impacted by their social environment • Failure to examine these factors leads to an incomplete explanation of crime

  13. Glueck and Glueck: Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency • Argued many theories of their time were focused on a single factor (e.g., poverty) and thus were not able to thoroughly explain crime • There is a need for a multifactor or eclectic approach to the study of crime causation • Examined a variety of factors to see which ones were related to crime

  14. Glueck and Glueck: Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency • Factors with probable causal significance • Physique • High incidence of mesomorphic (muscular, solid) dominance in delinquents • Among nondelinquents, there is a high incidence of ectomorphic (linear, thin) dominance • Delinquents have been reported to have been restless as children as well

  15. Glueck and Glueck: Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency • Factors with probable causal significance • Temperamental traits and emotional dynamics • Delinquents found to be more extroversive, more vivacious, more emotionally labile or impulsive, more destructive/sadistic, more aggressive, and more adventurous • Also delinquents found to be more hostile, defiant, resentful, destructive, and suspicious than nondelinquents • Delinquents are shown to be higher on social assertiveness, feelings of not being recognized/appreciated, narcissism, and are less conventional, cooperative, inclined to meet expectations of others, and submissive to authority • Delinquents are more stubborn and egocentric, less critical of themselves, less conscientious, and more likely to experience conflicts • Delinquents are more likely to handle conflicts through extroversion

  16. Glueck and Glueck: Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency • Factors with probable causal significance • Intellectual traits • The boys were matched on intelligence, but differences were still seen • Delinquents are distinguished from nondelinquents in having a lesser capacity to approach problems methodically • Delinquents have less verbal intelligence • Delinquents tend to express themselves intellectually in a direct, immediate, and concrete manner rather than through the use of intermediate symbols or abstractions • Delinquents have greater emotional disharmony connected with their performance of intellectual tasks

  17. Glueck and Glueck: Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency • Behavior reflecting significant traits • School attainment • May reflect temperamental and intellectual differences or variations in early environment and training • School accomplishment of delinquents was definitely inferior to that of the control group • Delinquents had a poorer attitude toward school • Markedly disliked school and few expressed a desire to continue their schooling • Less interested in academic tasks, less attentive, more often tardy, less reliable, more careless with their work, lazier, more restless, less truthful, and sought attention

  18. Glueck and Glueck: Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency • Behavior reflecting significant traits • School misbehavior • Delinquents misbehave at a much higher rate than nondelinquents • Average age at first school misbehavior was 9½ (fourth grade) • That is 3 years younger than nondelinquents who misbehaved in school • Engage in truancy, disobedience, disorderliness, stubbornness, impudence, quarrelsome, cruelty, and the destruction of school property

  19. Glueck and Glueck: Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency • Behavior reflecting significant traits • General misbehavior tendencies • Outside of school, delinquents stole rides, hopped on trucks, committed destructive mischief, set fires, and would sneak into theaters without paying, run away from home, bunk out, keep late hours, gamble, beg, and smoke and drink at an early age more than nondelinquents • Leisure time and companions • Delinquents spent more time away from home • More likely to play in distant neighborhoods, hang around street corners, vacant lots, waterfronts, railroad yards, and poolrooms • Engaged in fewer supervised activities • Gravitated to more adventurous activities • Preferred to associate with delinquent peers • One half of them were in gangs

  20. Glueck and Glueck: Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency • Behavior reflecting significant traits • Socio-cultural factors • Modern culture is highly complex and ill-defined because of conflicting values • Must learn to be adaptive, have self-control and self-management, learn to choose among alternative values and to postpone immediate satisfactions for future ones • Basic desires of adolescents similar and imperative • Striving for happiness and for expression of a desire for freedom from restraint, thirst for new experiences, need for security, affectional warmth from others, and a desire to achieve success

  21. Glueck and Glueck: Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency • Behavior reflecting significant traits • Socio-cultural factors • Home conditions of youth can facilitate or hamper the process of internalization of authority, the taming and sublimation of primitive impulses, and the definitions of standards of what is good and bad • The biosocial legacy of the parents of delinquents was consistently poorer than that of the nondelinquents • Greater incidence of emotional disturbances, mental retardation, alcoholism, and criminalism among the families of the mothers of delinquents • Also see more emotional disturbance and criminalism among the families of the fathers of the delinquents

  22. Glueck and Glueck: Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency • Behavior reflecting significant traits • Socio-cultural factors • Higher proportion of delinquents’ parents suffered from serious physical ailments and were mentally retarded, emotionally disturbed, alcoholic • Many had a history of delinquency • Many had poorer hygienic and moral climates • A higher proportion of delinquents’ parents had no more than a grade-school education, unhappy marriages, and broken homes • Many delinquents had “substitute” parents and shifted from house to house • Delinquents’ parents had a more scattered work history and less planful management of money

  23. Glueck and Glueck: Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency • Behavior reflecting significant traits • Socio-cultural factors • Parents of delinquents were extremely harsh and lax in their discipline • Often neglectful • Delinquents’ families were more disorganized, lacked warmth and respect toward their members, were more hostile, and had less attachment among their members • Thus, the delinquent boys were never adequately socialized and developed persistent antisocial tendencies

  24. Glueck and Glueck: Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency • Overall, found delinquency results from the interplay between somatic (physique—mesomorphic), temperamental (restless and aggressive), attitudinal (hostile and defiant), psychological (less methodical), intellectual, and sociocultural (especially family) forces • Assigns special importance to biological and psychological factors while discounting the importance of social factors • Argue that social factors are important but do not have a causal effect • Rather, these factors are another reflection of individual traits and early family problems that cause delinquency

  25. Glueck and Glueck: Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency • The Glueck’s work showed the importance of highlighting the differences between delinquents and nondelinquents • This research had three important contributions: • Embraced a multifactor approach where the causes of crime were driven by the data • Showed early antisocial behavior was related to later criminal behavior and thus criminal involvement was a dynamic developmental process • Need to examine childhood and theories that are incomplete • Criminological theory should become largely a branch of developmental criminology • Showed antisocial youths not only are shaped by their circumstances but also impact the social world

  26. Genetic Influences on Crime • Attempt to measure the extent that crime is inherited by using: • Twin studies • Compare identical (MZ) to fraternal (DZ) twins • MZ twins are 100% genetically similar; DZ twins are 50% genetically similar • Adoption studies • Focus on children separated from family early in life • Molecular genetic studies • Genes may be related to traits conducive to crime (e.g., hyperactivity, impulsivity)

  27. Genetic Influences on Crime • Existing research shows that there is evidence for some genetic basis for crime • Twenty percent of adopted children with criminal biological parents were criminal compared to only 13.5 percent of adoptees with noncriminal biological and noncriminal adoptive parents • Crime most likely when both biological and adoptive parents were criminal • However, genetic factors may be most relevant to life-course-persistent offenders and less relevant to adolescence-limited offenders

  28. Ellis and Walsh: “Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories in Criminology” • Genes have an effect on traits conducive to crime and under some conditions individuals with these traits might reproduce at high rates • Genes promoting traits of pushiness and deception (cheating) may reproduce at high rates passing on these genes • Role of kin selection

  29. Ellis and Walsh: “Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories in Criminology” • Focus only on victimful offenses (e.g., property and violent crimes) • Only examines genetic influences, not genetic determinism

  30. Ellis and Walsh: “Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories in Criminology” • The ability to learn and the disposition to learn some things more readily than others has a genetic predisposition • People vary in their ease with which they learn some behavior • These theories come out of the work of Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel

  31. Ellis and Walsh: “Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories in Criminology” • Application of gene-based evolutionary theories to criminal behavior • Assume people are altruistic toward close genetic relatives and those willing to reciprocate • Assumes a significant minority of people are genetically prone to be extremely deceptive and prone to take advantage of others

  32. Ellis and Walsh: “Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories in Criminology” • Five specific gene-based evolutionary theories discussed • Can be divided into two types: • Those focused on specific crimes (e.g., rape, spousal assault, child abuse) • Those that can be applied generally to criminal and antisocial behavior

  33. Ellis and Walsh: “Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories in Criminology”(Rape and Sexual Assault) • Assert sexual aggression is naturally selected to be exhibited predominately by the sex that invests the least in offspring • Most often males • Due to being free of parenting responsibilities, have more to gain by having multiple sex partners • Gain these partners by: • Genes promoting pushiness (and sometimes force) • Thus this gene gets passed on because higher reproductive rates

  34. Ellis and Walsh: “Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories in Criminology”(Rape and Sexual Assault) • Six hypotheses: • Males should predominate in the commission of rape and sexual assault • Men gain more from becoming pushy about sex than women • Males, in fact, do commit more sexual assaults/rapes than women • Sexual assaults should not be exclusively a human phenomenon; males of other species should have evolved similar genetically promoted tendencies • See rape in various nonhuman species with males almost exclusively the offender

  35. Ellis and Walsh: “Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories in Criminology”(Rape and Sexual Assault) • Rape should be strongly resisted by female victims because it denies them the opportunity to choose sex partners who are most likely to help care for offspring • Females are more cautious in choosing partners than males and interested in traits of loyalty and commitment • Victims of sexual assault should primarily be females of reproductive age

  36. Ellis and Walsh: “Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories in Criminology”(Rape and Sexual Assault) • In some societies, males who engage in forced copulations may not only reproduce relatively well, they could even out-reproduce males who only mate with voluntary sex partners • Rapists have more active sex lives • Penalties for rape will be severe to prevent genes conducive to rape from overtaking a population • Decision to act out is subject to environmental influences • Many would-be rapists are deterred • Wartime rape

  37. Ellis and Walsh: “Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories in Criminology”(Spousal and Romantic Triangle Assault) • Six hypotheses: • Males should be the main offenders in cases of spousal assaults and romantic triangle assaults • Males are far more abusive toward spouses/girlfriends • Jealousy and suspicion of infidelity should be a key cause of spousal and dating assaults • Males more likely to be the abuser • Cuckoldry • Used to maintain mate’s fidelity

  38. Ellis and Walsh: “Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories in Criminology”(Spousal and Romantic Triangle Assault) • “Spousal assaults” should not be an exclusively human phenomenon • Males from at least four other primate species have been shown to attack females who show interest in other males or are not sexually receptive • Spousal assault should be highest in human populations that have fewer stable marriages, greater promiscuous sexual intercourse, and more children who do not receive the family name of the father • No scientific evidence for this

  39. Ellis and Walsh: “Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories in Criminology”(Spousal and Romantic Triangle Assault) • Spousal assault may prevent infidelity and/or pregnancy resulting from infidelity • Victims may be frightened, and so they avoid activities that provoke assaults (trauma-induced bonding and dependency) • Leads to severe emotional distress that could disrupt reproductive functioning • Women who become pregnant as a result of sexual infidelity may be subjected to such severe badgering by the men with whom they live with that their pregnancy may be aborted • No evidence among married women

  40. Ellis and Walsh: “Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories in Criminology”(Child Abuse and Neglect) • Four hypotheses: • Parents who have more children than they have resources needed to rear them should abuse and even abandon their children more than parents who have sufficient resources • Find higher rates of abuse in larger and poorer families • A parent who lacks the assistance of the other parent in caring for the offspring should be more prone to child abuse, neglect, and abandonment • Abuse unusually common among never married, separated, or divorced families

  41. Ellis and Walsh: “Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories in Criminology”(Child Abuse and Neglect) • Children who are less viable from a reproductive standpoint are likely to experience more abuse and neglect from parents • Children with serious physical and mental handicaps typically receive less care and more abuse • Children will be subjected to more abuse/neglect when no close genetic relationship exists between the parent and the guardian • Research has supported this

  42. Ellis and Walsh: “Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories in Criminology”(Cad v. Dad) • Females prefer men who are willing to help them care for offspring • Some men (cads) have evolved with genes that incline them toward an extremely low parental investment reproductive strategy • To be favored in mating, these men must be deceptive/stealthy • Criminals will be deceptive, irresponsible, and opportunistic in almost everything they do • Use devious techniques for acquiring resources quickly and for gaining sexual access through almost any means that work

  43. Ellis and Walsh: “Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories in Criminology”(Cad v. Dad) • Five hypotheses: • Criminality and psychopathy should be more prevalent among men than among women • Support for this found in all societies studied and, especially, with severe and persistent offending • Criminals and psychopaths should be unusually promiscuous • Several studies have shown criminality and psychopathy are associated with an early onset of promiscuous sexual behavior

  44. Ellis and Walsh: “Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories in Criminology”(Cad v. Dad) • Criminals and psychopaths should be more inclined to commit sexual assaults than males in general • Evidence is generally supportive of this • Rapists are generally not specialists but rather exhibit all of the other major criminal and antisocial behavioral traits • The cad strategy should be more pronounced among males in the prime of their reproductive careers than in later life • Ontogenetic shift • Burnout later in life

  45. Ellis and Walsh: “Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories in Criminology”(Cad v. Dad) • The cheater strategy should be more prevalent in the lower than the upper social strata • Two subpopulations of males have formed: • Those who can provide • More attractive to females • Those who cannot provide • More inclined to mate opportunistically and be a cad

  46. Ellis and Walsh: “Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories in Criminology”(r/K Theory) • r/K continuum R Mating K Parenting • Organisms reproduce rapidly and prolifically whenever environmental opportunities allow • Do not invest much time/resources in their offspring • Begin reproducing at earlier age • Often have numerous offspring • Organisms reproduce slowly and cautiously even when environmental opportunities allow • Invest a great deal of time/resources in their offspring

  47. Ellis and Walsh: “Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories in Criminology”(r/K Theory) • Four hypotheses: • Criminality and psychopathy should be more prevalent among men than among women • Persons with the greatest tendencies toward criminal/antisocial behaviors should exhibit at least most of the psychological traits associated with an r strategy • Low birth weight, premature birth, frequent twinning

  48. Ellis and Walsh: “Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories in Criminology”(r/K Theory) • Parents of criminals and psychopaths should begin having children earlier in life and should have larger numbers of children in general • Evidence for this exists • Biological parents of criminals and psychopaths should themselves be criminal and psychopathic • Evidence for this is substantial

  49. Modern Day Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories • Ultimate causes • Natural selection forces that have favored genes for various combinations of traits, both physical and behavioral • Proximate causes • Pertain to detailed physiological events that mediate genetic effects on behavior • Testosterone, MAOs, serotonin, alcoholism

  50. Modern Day Gene-Based Evolutionary Theories • Overall, these modern day gene-based theories are much more advanced than Lombroso’s theories • Criminal behavior seen as being an adaptation to life in a large impersonal society • However, learning still important • But it is highly influenced by genes