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Theories of Criminal Behaviour


Theories of Criminal Behaviour Biological Roots of Criminal Behavior Major Principles of Biological Theories The brain is the organ of the mind and the locus of ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Theories of Criminal Behaviour

Theories of Criminal Behaviour
Biological Roots of Criminal Behavior
Major Principles of Biological Theories
  •  The brain is the organ of the mind and the locus
    of personality
  • The basic determinants of human behavior are
    constitutionally or genetically based
  • Observed gender and racial differences in rates
    and types of criminality may be at least
    partially the result of biological differences
    between the sexes and/or between racially
    distinct groups

Major Principles of Biological Theories 
  • The basic determinants of human behavior may be
    passed on from generation to generation
  • Much of human conduct is fundamentally rooted in
    instinctive behavioral responses characteristic
    of biological organisms everywhere
  • The interplay between heredity, biology, and the
    social environment provides the nexus for any
    realistic consideration of crime causation

Early Biological Theories
  • Lombroso in 1876 argued that the criminal is a
    separate species, a species that is between
    modern and primitive humans.
  • He argued that the physical shape of the head
    and face determined the "born criminal".

Early Biological Theories
  • Lombroso studied and measured the bodies of
    executed and deceased offenders as well as
    examining living inmates to locate physical
    differences or abnormalities
  • Claimed to have found a variety of bodily
    features predictive of criminal behavior
  • Long arms, large teeth, ears lacking lobes, lots
    of body hair
  • Also identified characteristics of particular
    types of offenders

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Early Biological Theories
  • Constitutional Theories
  • William Sheldon
  • Used body measurement techniques to connect body
    type with personality and outlined four basic
    body types and associated temperaments and

Body types
  • people could be classified into three body
    shapes, which correspond with three different
    personality types.
  • endomorphic (fat and soft) tend to be sociable
    and relaxed.
  • ectomorphic (thin and fragile) are introverted
    and restrained
  • mesomorphic (muscular and hard) tend to be
    aggressive and adventurous.
  • Sheldon, using a correlational study, found that
    many convicts were mesomorphic, and they were
    least likely to be ectomorphic

Endomorph, Mesomorph, Ectomorph,
Modern Biological Theories
  • Biochemical (diet, hypoglycemia, hormones,
    environmental exposure)
  • Neurophysiological (brain dysfunction)
  • Evolutionary theories

Modern Biological Theories
  • Hormones and criminality
  • Testosterone
  • Male sex hormone linked to aggression
  • Research has shown a relationship between high
    blood testosterone levels and increase male
  • Low brain levels of serotonin
  • Genetics and Crime XYY Supermale
  • Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes
  • The last pair determines gender
  • Males XY pair
  • Females XX pair
  • A study of Scottish prisoners found that a small
    number had an XYY chromosome.These were
    identified as potentially violent and labeled
  • Criminal Families
  • criminal families appeared to show criminal
    tendencies through several generations

Modern Biological Theories
  • Weather and Crime
  • Temperature is the only weather variable
    consistently and reliably related to crime
  • Positive correlation between temperature and
    violent crime
  • Moderated by factors such as time of day, day of
    week and season. Cohn and Rotton have found
    temperature to be related to crimes such as
    assault, property offenses, domestic violence and
    disorderly conduct
  • Chemical and environmental precursors of crime
    (nutrition, eating habits, and environmental
    contaminants related to violent and/or
    disruptive behavior)

Psychological approach to the study of crime
Psychological Perspectives on Criminality
Psychoanalytic Theory
  • Sigmund Freud (18561939) One can understand
    human behavior best by examining early childhood
  • Criminality is linked to guilt feelings
    (unresolved oedipal and Electra complexes).

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
  • Human behaviour is governed by primitive urges
    (eros and thanatos) of the ID.
  • ID requires repression which results in formation
    of Ego and Superego.

Freudian Explanations of Delinquency
  • Human nature is inherently antisocial
  • Id infants start life with antisocial drives
  • Superego forms from experience
  • Ego helps to negotiate demands for instant
    gratification with acceptable behavior

Freudian Elements of Personality
Psychoanalytic interpretations
  • 3 Main principles of psychodynamic theory when
    applied to delinquent criminal behaviour are
    that delinquent behavior can be traced to faulty
    relationships in the family during the first
    years of life
  • These faulty relationships result in inadequate
    ego and superego development
  • These inadequacies in turn make it impossible for
    the child to control later delinquent impulses

Freudian Approach
  • John Bowlby (1946) studied 44 juvenile
    delinquents and compared them with non-criminal
    disturbed juveniles.
  • 39 of the delinquents had experienced complete
    separation from their mothers for six-months or
    more during the first five years of their lives
    compared with 5 of the control group.
  • early maternal deprivation was causally related
    to delinquent behaviour

Erik Erikson (1902-84)
  • Stage theorist.
  • During adolescence identity vs. role confusion
    stage may result in identity crisis.
  • Out-of-control behaviours (e.g. drug
    experimentation) reflect identity crisis.

Behavioural Theories
Social Learning Theory
  • Aggression
  • Is learned, not innate.
  • Requires personal observation of aggression or
    rewards for aggression.
  • Involves behaviour modelling of family members,
    community members and mass media
  • Three types of learning
  • Classical conditioning
  • Operant conditioning
  • Observational (vicarious) learning

Principles of Learning
  • Positive reinforcement increases the target
    behavior by rewarding the individual
  • Negative reinforcement increases the target
    behavior by removing an unpleasant stimulus
  • Punishment reduces the odds of the target
    behavior being repeated

Behavioural explanations of crime
  • All behaviour is learned - deviant behaviour is
    said to be learnt in much the same way as other
  • Direct parental control theorists tie
    delinquency to parents failure to effectively
    condition their children away from negative
  • Glueck and Glueck inconsistent and harsh
    punishment correlates with delinquent children
  • Patterson effective parenting (monitoring,
    punishing, and reinforcing behavior) correlates
    with nondeliquent children

Principles of Learning
Albert Bandura
  • Violence and aggression are produced by
  • An arousal event (provocation).
  • Learned aggressive skills.
  • Expected success and rewards.
  • Pro-violence values.

  • Observational learning is thought to take place
    primarily in three contexts
  • 1. In the family
  • 2. In the prevalent sub culture
  • 3. Through cultural symbols such as television
    and books.
  • Observational learning This is where viewers
    learn behaviours from watching others and may
    imitate them many behaviours are learned from
    the media
  • - Models A model is a person who is observed
    and/or imitated.

Bobo doll experiments
  • show preschoolers a short film of a person
    beating up a bobo doll.
  • They were shown the short film twice, but there
    were three different endings watched by three
    different groups of children.
  • First photo shown is the demonstrated short film
    with a person beating up a bobo doll.
  • The second photo shown is what the preschoolers
    did after they watched the short film.

Media and Crime
  • Does media (TV and movies) influence aggression,
    violence, and criminal behavior?
  • Conducive to role modeling
  • Perpetrators not punished
  • Targets of violence show little pain
  • Few long-term negative consequences

Media and Violence
  • Media provides aggressive scripts.
  • Violence is copied.
  • TV violence increases arousal level.
  • TV violence promotes attitude change, suspicious
  • TV violence promotes justification for violence.
  • Media violence may disinhibit aggressive

Policy Implications of Behaviorism
  • Criminals can learn pro-social behaviors to
    replace criminal actions

Cognitive Theory
Cognitive Psychology
  • Humans ability to engage in complex thoughts
    influences behavior
  • Cognitions (like behaviors) can be learned
  • Focus on
  • Cognitive structure (how people think)
  • Cognitive content (what people think)

Cognitive Structure
  • Kohlberg's theory of moral reasoning humans
    advance through predictable stages of moral
  • delinquency is not synonymous with immoral
  • the reasoning of higher moral stages is less
    likely to fit in with a criminal lifestyle
  • justification for violating the law can be found
    at all stages

Kohlbergs Stages of Moral Development (1 of 2)
  • Stage 1
  • Right is blindly obeying those with power and
  • Emphasis is on avoiding punishment.
  • Interests of others are not considered.
  • Stage 2
  • Right is furthering ones own interests.
  • Interests of others are important only as a way
    to satisfy self-interests.
  • Stage 3
  • Moral reasoning is motivated by loyalties to
    others and a desire to live up to others

Kohlbergs Stages of Moral Development (2 of 2)
  • Stage 4
  • Right is following the rules of society and
    maintaining important social institutions (e.g.,
    family, community).
  • Stage 5
  • Moral decisions are made by weighing individual
    rights against legal principles and the common
  • Stage 6
  • Moral decisions are based on universal principles
    (e.g., human dignity, desire for justice).
  • Principles are considered across different
    contexts and are independent of the law.

Moral Development
  • Research shows that
  • Criminals tend to be in stages 1 and 2.
  • Non-criminals are in higher stages.
  • People in lower stages fear punishment.
  • People in middle stages fear reaction of family
    and friends.
  • People in highest stages believe in duty to
    others, universal rights.

Cognitive Content
  • Rationalizations or denials that support criminal
  • For example, a criminal thinks, Im not really
    hurting anyone.
  • Criminals are more likely to express such
    thoughts, but the relationship (causation or
    correlation) to crime is unclear.
  • Extremely common for sex offenders

Policy Implications of Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive theory translates easily into practice.
  • Cognitive skills programs teach offenders
    cognitive skills like moral reasoning, anger
    management, or self-control.
  • Cognitive restructuring attempts to change the
    content of an individuals thoughts.
  • Combination cognitive-behavioral programs have
    had significant success.

Personality traits theory
Eysencks Theory of Personality
  • Argued against sociological theories.
  • Criminal behavior resulted from an interaction of
    environment and biology.
  • Based on biology.
  • Personality Temperament (inborn/genetic)

Central NS
Peripheral NS
Eysencks Personality Theory
Suggests that high levels of introvertism and
extrovertism can be related to crime. Also
introduced a P scale (psychoticism) to predict
criminal behaviour.
  • stable extraverts (sanguine qualities such as -
    outgoing, talkative, responsive, easygoing,
    lively, carefree, leadership)
  • unstable extraverts (choleric qualities such as -
    touchy, restless, excitable, changeable,
    impulsive, irresponsible)
  • stable introverts (phlegmatic qualities such as -
    calm, even-tempered, reliable, controlled,
    peaceful, thoughtful, careful, passive)
  • unstable introverts (melancholic qualities such
    as - quiet, reserved, pessimistic, sober, rigid,
    anxious, moody).

Extraversion - Introversion
  • Reflects need for stimulation.
  • Extraverts like excitement, become bored more
    easily, welcome the unconventional
  • Criminals are more likely to be extraverts
  • Impulsive
  • Thrill-seeking
  • Willing to take chances
  • May be less able to internalize societys rules
    i.e., less conditionable.

Neurotic -Stable and Crime
  • Criminals are more likely to be neurotic
  • Emotionality acts as a drive to habitual ways of
  • When under stress do what you know best.
  • Impacts criminality only if the individual has
    developed anti-social habits.
  • More important factor as one ages (habits become
    more engrained)

  • Is not the same as psychosis
  • No established physiological mechanism but
    testosterone, monoamine oxidase and serotonin may
    be involved.
  • Similar to Primary Psychopathy
  • Cold cruelty, social insensitivity, dislike of
    others, attraction to the unusual.

  • The common emphasis of all psychological theories
    is on the individual.
  • Each theory must be evaluated on its ability to
    account for criminality.
  • Not all theories are well supported by evidence.
  • Many psychological theories translate well into
    treatment programs.