Lecture 6 - Violent Crime - extra notes on biological and psychological theories

Lecture 6 - Violent Crime - extra notes on biological and psychological theories

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Lecture 6: The Sources of Violent Crime – extra notes Born Criminals? Biological Theory Influenced by the growing role of science as a solution to control life’s problems, 19 th century Italian anthropologist and psychiatrist Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) and his student Enrico Ferri (1856-1928) founded a new approach called positivist criminology . Instead of focusing on the crime and the offender’s choice about whether or not to commit it, this approach sought to discover what it was about criminals that caused them to commit offenses, and which made them different from nonoffenders. Although their ideas were later disproved, the tradition diffused to the United States. Cesare Lombroso (1836-1909) and his students Enrico Ferri (1856-1929) and Raffaelo Garofolo (1852-1934) founded the Positive school of criminology . Lombroso was influenced by the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin, by the positive sociology of Auguste Comte, and by the work of the sociologist Herbert Spencer, who attempted to adapt Darwin’s theory to the social world. Lombroso compared criminals with non- criminals in order to isolate the factors that caused criminality. Lombroso’s ideas were widely accepted at the end of the 19 th century, and their popularity was partly due to the growing influence of science and Darwin’s theory, and it was also due to the comfort of the ruling classes with the view that criminals were not produced by society’s flaws, but that they were genetic misfits who were born to break the rules that governed the lives of civilized people. In the early 1900s, Dr. Goring found a high correlation between criminality and low intelligence , so he concluded that crime was transmitted genetically through mental inferiority. Unlike Lombroso, Goring did feel that hereditary predispositions could be altered by social factors such as education. In the 1930s, Hooton , a Harvard anthropologist, concluded that criminals represent an aggregate of sociologically and biologically inferior individuals. In the 1950s, William Sheldon related particular body type (i.e. endomorph, ectomorph, and mesomorph) to particular kinds of criminal behaviour . He found that the muscular mesomorphs were the type that were most likely to become involved in delinquent or criminal behaviour. The policy implications of some of the biological theories , culminating in the eugenics movement and policies such as involuntary sterilization made biological theories unpopular. However, in recent years, biological theories have once again become scientifically and politically respectable. These theorists propose that factors, such as brain damage, epileptic disorders, and endocrine disorders are direct causes of criminal behaviour. The individual is made a delinquent by predisposing forces within the individual operating beyond his control. Biological theories consider the direct effect of physical and physiological processes on behaviour and the indirect effect of environment on the brain whose processes then control behaviour. Some people are “born criminal” or
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Lecture 6 - Violent Crime - extra notes on biological and psychological theories

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