Are criminals born or made?

Is criminal behaviour due to nurture or nature? 

Nature - Genes (Christiansen), evolution (Daly and Wilson), brain function (Raine et al)      
Nurture - Social learning theory (Bandura, Charlton), self-fulfilling prophecy (Jahoda, Zebrowitz)

Includes description and evaluation of Gesch et al 2002.

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  • Created by: Beccy
  • Created on: 26-02-12 17:36
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Are criminals born or made?
Criminals are born - "nature"
Is it genetically inherited?
· Christiansen (1977) carried our a twin study to answer this question
3586 twins pairs were tested in Denmark
52% concordance rate for criminality in monozygotic twins
22% concordance in dizygotic twins
· This suggests that there is a genetic cause to criminality
· However, it is for "property crimes" only
Is violence due to evolution?
· Daly and Wilson (1997) argue that males are more likely to be involved to violent crime
because of evolutionary pressures to secure a mate and protect that mate from other
"Homicide in Detroit, as elsewhere, is overwhelmingly a male affair. Victim and offender
populations are almost identical, with unemployed, unmarried, young men greatly
overrepresented. Most homicides concern status competition."
Is violence caused by brain function?
· Raine et al (1997) studied 41 violent offenders and compared the activity in their
prefrontal lobes to 41 non-criminals.
· To do this, Raine et al used PET scans.
· The violent offenders showed significantly less activity in prefrontal lobe than the other
participants suggesting less control over impulsive behaviour.

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Criminals are made - "nurture"
Social Learning Theory
Social learning theory involves four main processes:
- you have to pay attention to an action in order to copy it
- criminal behaviour is often shocking so grabs your attention
- you have to remember an action in order to copy it
- criminal behaviour is often shocking so stick in your memory
- you have to be physically able to copy the behaviour
- For example: you cannot copy…read more

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you have to identify with someone in order to see them as a role model.
this would explain why boys follow their fathers into crime.
Vicarious reinforcement
· Vicarious reinforcement is the term for watching someone else get rewarded for a
behaviour making you want to copy them.
- criminals may be seen to get money and status from their actions so other people
around them may see this and want to copy them.…read more

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Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Self-fulfilling prophecy is the idea that expecting something to happen is sometimes
enough to make it come true. So if you expect that you will not get on with someone, that
will mea that you don't, because you treat them differently.
The process of self-fulfilling prophecy follows a certain order:
- A stereotype is an assumption that a whole group of people have the same
characteristics based on no evidence or experience of one person.…read more

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However, it is difficult to define what a "baby-faced boy" is.
Practical applications
· Training could be given to teachers, prison officers and anyone else likely to have
contact with vulnerable young people to make them aware of the fact that their
expectations are likely to affect the way the young people behave.
Alternative explanations
· There is evidence for the role of social learning theory in causing criminal behaviour - this
is not accounted for in self-fulfilling prophecy.…read more

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It is likely that those eating poor diets in the community are also more likely to display
anti-social behaviour.…read more


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