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The psychological and biological theories of crime as related to criminology.
What are the peculiarities of the psychological and biological theories of crime? What is the essence of the biological theory of crime? What are the psychological characteristics of a potential criminal?
The rich socio-historical experience of the humanity in the past gives an additional opportunity for adequate understanding of modern criminology and the problems solved by the given branch of knowledge.
Psychological and biological theories of crime in criminology essay
Criminology is not an old science; nevertheless it is possible to say that the steps of its creation started long before its official definition as a science. The necessity of this science is especially high nowadays when, the level of crime has risen immensely in every corner of the planet. The attempt to explain the human behavior has already become a priority for many scientists all over the world. The rich socio-historical experience of the humanity in the past gives an additional opportunity for adequate understanding of modern criminology and the problems solved by the given branch of knowledge. Criminology had several factors that especially influenced its development. These factors provide a lot of back up information for a better understanding of criminology and its possibilities.
Criminology is a socially-legal interdisciplinary science and an integral part of legislation. As it has been already mentioned, the beginning of the existence of criminology as a separate science started in the middle of the XIX century. Its start is strongly associated with the works of a famous criminologist Cesar Lombroso. Criminology as a science has a list of primary problems that it is to solve. The first one to mention is the analytical problem which lies in the detailed researched of the phenomenon of criminality, its general condition and the categorization of all the existing criminal manifestations. So therefore criminology provides a correct “picture” of the present criminal situation in any given geographical location. Other problems include the prognosis of the potential criminal situation, the prevention of criminality and the determination of the causes and the consequences of crime. One of the most important criminological issues of the new era is the designation of the crime determinants. So basically criminology has four main priorities to study: criminality, the personality of criminals, the reasons and the conditions under which criminality takes place and the possible methods of prevention. There have been many attempts to understand the true causes of crime. These attempts are especially revealed through the existing theories in criminology. Nevertheless, the biological and the psychological theories are the ones most spread and their contradiction constantly results in numerous arguments between the supporters of both of the theories. In order to make any concrete conclusions on any of these theories it is necessary to analyze them and their contribution in criminology.
The biological theories primarily study the physical constitution and endocrinology. They are a bright example of the theories that has not really got any practical support. The misunderstanding of these theories has caused a stereotype that if a person is a criminal then he was born as a criminal and any steps taken in order to change or to influence them are useless. Biological theories are only a part and one the interpretation of criminality but not the only. In the present time there is no assertive evidence of the fact, that the physical constitution and other biological factors cause criminality.
Nevertheless, these theories have a right to exist and there was a lot of important information that was used in terms of the development of criminology as a science.
The most vivid example of the biological determinism is the theory of Cesare Lombroso. Lombroso based his theory on the assumption that criminals have certain physiognomic features or abnormalities. Lombroso wanted to be able to detect future criminals in order to isolate them from the society. This gave criminology a strong push to create new methods of dealing with criminals and prevent crimes. Lombroso implied that prisoners had common facial characteristics. If to exaggerate criminals in Lombroso’s theory can be identified through the shape of their skulls, asymmetry of the face and head, large cheekbones, ears and lips, long arms and a twisted nose. Lombroso’s theory is the oldest one and it can without a doubt be called the main background data for the whole process of the development of criminology. Lombroso stated that men are more inclined to commit crimes due to the conservatism and the narrow-mindedness of their interests. According to Lombroso women have less social contacts and this is what predetermines their conservatism. This theory of female deviance seems to be very discriminating and not a present-day issue. The evaluation of a person as a “born criminal” basing on his facial features is at least not ethical and rather primitive. Lombroso considered this “born criminals” to be the “atavisms” of the society.
All the biological theories are based on the notion that biological markers foreordain criminal behavior. The core of all these theories is that genetic factors or any abnormalities which are inherited or acquired throughout the life, predispose individuals to the criminal behavior. Lombroso’s theory gave life to probably almost every single biological theory that appeared afterward.
Among the biological theories the XYY syndrome occupies a special place, as it analyzes why males are more often subjects to become criminals due to the presence if an extra Y chromosome. As this syndrome is in the first place associated with the low IQ-level of such males which seems to be a much better explanation. IQ shortage causes the inability to adjust in the contemporary social world that requires constant activity and flexibility. People facing these difficulties are left with no other choice that to turn to criminality. It all starts with low performance at school which results in the awareness of the “irretrievable dissimilitude” from others which later on results in deviance. Also such diseases as Organic Brain Syndrome, ADD or hormonal changes according to the biological theories play a very important role in the inclination to any criminal activities.
Another famous biological theory is the theory of William Sheldon. He based his research and inferences on Kretschmer's constitutional personality. For instance, Sheldon pointed out three main body types which are to explain the potential bent to criminal activity: endomorph, mesomorph and ectomorph. Endomorph is a type hat is fat and therefore is primarily concerned with consumption. Mesomorph is defined through skinny intelligent introverts and ectomorph characterizes large dynamic people. Sheldon claimed that disproportionately mesomorphic people are more often subjects to criminal behavior than any other body type. In spite of the variety of biological theories nowadays it is clear that there is no possibility to consider that any person can be a “born criminal”, because it is very hard to underestimate the social factors and all the psychological issues connected with them. Lombroso’s theory was a good start for criminology but this point of view needed to transform into something new and not one-sided.
The main idea of the psychological theories is that potential criminal behavior is the result of stable psychological trait of a person. These personality characteristics are he ones to push people towards committing crimes and demonstrating deviant behavior. The psychological theories emphasize the meaning of extraversion, neuroticism, psychotisism and may others of the conduct of a man. According to the psychological theories the disposition to crime is the result of inadequate socialization. They consider the social factor to be one of the most important ones in terms of inclination to deviance.
Among the numerous psychological theories it is important to point out Sigmund Freud’s and Erik Erikson’s psychodynamic theories, Skinner’s operant conditioning, Albert Bandura’s social-learning theory and the theory of moral development based on Kohlberg’s and Piaget’s stages of development.
Freud touched the problem of possible personality imbalance based on the functioning of Id, Ego and Superego resulting in the repression which can later proceed into criminal behavior. Erikson made an emphasis on the child development. He was particularly solicitous about the problem of identity diffusion which resulted in excessively self-conscious people who are overly concerned with sexuality. Erikson pointed out the problem of unfulfilled expectations which form a negative identity. In its turn this negative identity when possessed by a person make him want to show it out and he most common way to do it is to rebel against everything. The rebel against social norms is a bright example of how negative identity can result in criminal behavior. This theory performs a perfect base of how deviance can be stopped at early age.
The next major theory to mention is Skinner’s operant conditioning theory which is founded on the standard scheme of stimulus > reaction. According to Skinner the reward-based actions can form the desired behavior of a person and therefore also provide important information in terms of the prevention of criminality.
Bandura in his psychological social learning or also known as the social learning theory states: “Learning would be exceedingly laborious…if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do… from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action” [Bandura, 22]. Bandura claimed that modeling plays the most important role in the behavior formation.
Kohlberg’s theory of moral development is based on the thoughts revealed in the works of Jean Piaget. According to Kohlberg every individual passed six stages throughout his development as a personality. Each of the stages belongs to a definite level, so Kohlberg marked out three levels: pre-conventional level, conventional level and the post-conventional level. Each of the three levels has is own social orientation. The diapason of the social orientations varies from obedience and punishment, and ends up with principled conscience. If something is missed along the way principled conscience is never achieved and therefore the adult person does not understand what “social mutuality and a genuine interest in the welfare of others” means . Kohlberg indicates that the only way out of the situation of “immaturity” is to face the required social dilemmas at each of the six stages.
All these theories mentioned above require socialization and without it no morality can be achieved by any means. No morality is a guarantee of the future anti-social criminal behaviour. The psychological theories in criminology in he modern times are the major hope to cope with the ever-lasting problem of crime prevention. Psychology has given these theories and supported them various widely known experiments. This makes the contribution of the psychological theories to the criminology as a discipline immense and irreplaceable. These psychological theories give an opportunity for the future adults spend their lives decently and definitely not in jail.
Contemporary theories are a combination of both biological and social factors, as one cannot go without the other. Every individual socializes and the social factor should be given the proper attention it deserves. The best theory or approach towards the possible explanation of the causes of crime and the personality of the criminals lies in the union of the most well-grounded parts of each of the theories. It is evident from our essay that both of the groups of theories have made a significant contribution into the development of the criminology as a discipline, because the biological theories represent the foundation for all the following theories which nowadays create the basics of the modern criminology. It cannot under any condition be said that one or another theory is more or less important because they have been developed separately all the time; and this was the major problem of criminology.
At the present moment criminology has gathered aspects from different theories in order to analyze, explain, predict and prevent deviant conduct. Criminology has come to the point where the contribution of both of the groups of theories is vital due to the fact that they all work for one purpose – to eliminate crime in the society and create a better world for the future generations. It goes without saying that the scientifically significance of the biological theories has lost credit; nevertheless these theories should not be forgotten. If people do not know their pas they will not ever know heir future. The same works for the theories. Only owing to their contribution into his science, criminology has become as professional as it has never been before.
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