Biological explanations for offending behaviour

  • Created by: grestabi
  • Created on: 12-12-18 12:06
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  • Biological explanations of offending behaviour
    • Genetic explanations
      • Price (1966) - males with an extra Y chromosome,(XYY super-males), predisposed to violent crime, above average height and below average intelligence. It may be low intelligence causing their overrepresent-ation in prisons.
      • Christiansen (1977) - 3586 twin pairs in Denmark - concordance rate for criminality;  monozygotic twins = 52%, dizygotic twins.= 22% However shared upbringing must have effect  - if it was purely genes then would have a 100% rate for monozygotic twins
      • Reduced levels of dopamine and noradrenaline causes problems with violence and inappropriate sexual behaviour.
        • Less oxytocin means reduced pair bonding between mothers and children, predisposing them to crime.
        • Testosterone is elevated in all psychopaths, both male and female. It is associated with aggression and sex drive. Young men have twice the level of testosterone as older men.
        • Impaired serotonin may also cause mental retardation which can be linked to aggressive behaviour.
      • We must avoid biological determinism; Criminals have free will
      • Explaining crime simply through genes is very reductionist. Crime is complex and the reasons for people turning to crime are many and varied
      • support for the Diathesis-Stress model of crime; someone may have biological tendencies towards crime, but they will need some sort of environmental trigger in order to actually become criminal
    • Neural explanations
      • Raine used PET scans; found abnormalities in parts of the brains of violent criminals, where the majority had been diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder.
        • reduced activity in the Prefrontal Cortex, the part that regulates emotional behaviour, means less guilt and control over impulses.
          • The prefrontal lobe develops relatively late in males - develops later than in their 20s and may explain the peak in antisocial behaviour by male teenagers.
        • Studied 41 violent offenders and compared their prefrontal cortex activity with 41 non-criminals (including 6 schizophrenics) using PET scans.
          • Found that violent criminals had significantly less activity in this area compared to non-criminals
      • more accurate and reliable through the use of PET scans, scientific methods and equipment.
      • Explaining crime simply through brain structure is very reductionist. Crime is complex and just purely explaining through brain structure is over simplifying it.
      • Not every criminal has an abnormal brain structure. These theories can only explain a small number of crimes. Free Will gives criminals the choice to break the law.
    • Lambroso (1876) suggests criminality is inherited by the way they look. These people exhibited 'atavistic' (i.e. primitive) features as they were 'throwbacks' from an earlier stage of development.
      • In a study of 383 dead Italian criminals and 3839 living ones, he found that 40% of them had atavistic characteristic.


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