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Theories of Crime
A criminal is defined as someone who acts in a behaviour that is unsuitable for society. Most people
have committed a crime at some point in their lives; however the defining difference tends to be
whether people have been caught. A social construct is something that has been constructed by
society. The big question surrounding criminals is whether they are born criminals or made into
Lombroso (1876) proposed his theory of a criminal gene, meaning criminals were genetically
different from non criminals purely from the appearance. Lombroso collected his evidence in an
Italian prison and found that murderers were more likely to have cold glassy blood shot eyes, long
ears and a strong jaw. However Lombroso sample was only made up of Italian men and therefore is
an unrepresentative sample.
One piece of research that critics Lombroso's theory is Goring (1913) who found no significance
difference when he compared 3000 convicts and non criminals in terms of their physical appearance.
Goring used a control group, where as Lombroso did not use a control group meaning he had nothing
to compare his results with. One weakness of Lombroso theory is that it doesn't allow individual
difference of facial features between the criminals and take into account other factors such as
Sheldon (1942) proposed a different theory than Lombroso, he stated that criminals tend to be
mesomorph or in other words broad & muscular, this theory suggests that criminals are made.
Sheldon (1942) placed photographs of 200 male students and 200 male delinquents into the three
body types. He found the students had a equal distribution however the delinquents had significant
more mesomorph than any other body type.
Both Sheldon and Lombroso suggest that criminal behaviour is down to the criminal gene. This
suggests that criminals can be identified by looking at their body type or facial features.
Sutherland (1951) criticised Sheldon's method for not applying the legal criteria when classification
of delinquents. When Sutherland reanalysed Sheldons data using the legal criteria the legal
relationship between mesomorph and delinquency disappeared. One weakness of Sheldon theory is
that it is reductionist as it reduces all criminal behaviour to genes and body type.
Eysneck (1977) suggested that criminals are born, by proposing that there are differences in central
and automic nervous systems of individuals, causing the less likely to conform or obey to social rules
and more likely to engage in criminal behaviour. Individuals with less sensitive nervous systems tend
to be participating in crime to seek excitement. Extroverts need more excitement than introverts
which can lead to criminal behaviour.
One study that criticises Eysenck theory is Moffit (1993) who found different types of offenders
meaning it is unlikely a "criminal personality" exists.
One problem with Eysenck's theory is that different personalities will be needed for different
crimes, for example a person who commits fraud or a con artist would have a different personality
than a murderer.
Bowlby (1951) proposed that a child will become psychologically health if the child has a close and
uninterrupted relationships with the primary care giver up to the age of 5. If the relationship is
disrupted it can lead to affectionless psychopaths which cause them to feel no gulit for their action.
This suggests that criminals are made and not born.
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Bowlby compared 44 juvenile thieves to a matched group of non delinquents who had been referred
to a child guidance clinic. He found 39% of juvenile thieves had experienced a separation of their
primary care giver, where as only 5% of the control group did. This supports the theory that criminals
are made, as 39% of the criminals had a interrupted relationship.…read more